Re-Imagining DragonLance – part 1

In this series I presenting a re-imagination of the old DragonLance-modules. I am replaying them presently (well into DL3 Dragons of Hope right now), and they just don’t hold up. There are many good ideas in them, but playing them as written is not easy, for as many good ideas there are flaws.

DL0: Dragons of Prologue

In my previous post I argued for the production of a prologue-module to begin the campaign.

Before play

The players are given the following information before start:

  • No one has seen a dragon for a thousand years. To people they are imaginary creatures of legend.
  • Three hundred years ago the world died as old gods punished the people of Krynn with a rain of fire. Then the gods departed.
  • The survivors from the civilization of Xak Tsaroth were the Abandoned and they fled to the plains (naming them thus the Abassania). From here left three migrations. Two went east and settled in two different places (at Solace and at Haven), the third went south and disappeared. The remainders became the three Que-tribes.
  • Among the known humanoid races are humans and kendar (player character races), and goblins, hobgoblins and the elusive elves and some speak of a forgotten people, the dwarves.
  • Now people worship The New Gods, and the center of worship is Haven.

During play

During module DL0 Dragons of Prologue the characters discover the following:

  • A dark force is corrupting the priesthood of Haven.
  • The new gods are false, and any miracles are mere tricks and illusions.
  • The Song of the Blue Crystal Staff – a force of goodness has guided the PCs to an ancient statue of an unknown woman carrying a Blue Crystal Staff. The staff conveyed true miraculous powers, and the PCs were required to seek out legendary Xak Tsaroth to pick up ancient tablets of power.

Thus we begin DL1 Dragons Despair.

Dragons of Despair

Right now the PCs are in the middle of the story. Instead of NPCs doing the important stuff or important decisions being made before play, it has become an active part of the play.

In DL1 the PCs travel to Xak Tsaroth from Haven, and once at Xak Tsaroth they discover that evil forces has invaded the place and now guards the tablets of power.

The module: Overview

The basic structure remains unchanged: The PCs travel with the Blue Crystal Staff to Xak Tsaroth, navigate the sunken city and confront the dragon in order to regain the tablets. During the travel the PCs are harassed by Lord Toede and his hobgoblins and they encounter the first draconians and they meet the people of the plains

The Module: First Act

The PCs travel from Haven to Solace. During the journey they travel around the forest – as it is a dark and foreboding place inhabited by the malign spirits of the forest – and as they travel, they meet travellers talking about a band of hobgoblins led by the deformed Lord Toede (whom the travellers assume to be a hobgoblin due to his deformities). This is naturally foreshadowing the next part, where the PCs are being chased by the hobgoblins, until the hobgoblins are defeated or the heroes take refuge in the forest. Here a white stag guides them through the forest to just a few kilometers from Solace. Travelling the last part the heroes encounter hooded travellers asking about a Blue Crystal Staff. This is the classic first encounter with draconians, but this time the PCs are perhaps cautious and avoids answering and thus the draconians remain hidden. Otherwise it is another combat.

In the town of Solace the heroes can plan the next step of their journey, crossing the plains, and while they are in town, they must stay out of sight from the hooded travellers asking for them (thus we steal a scene from LotR).

The Module: Second Act

Crossing the plains is easy. The main purpose is to introduce the people of the plains, and while visiting them, the PCs are told the story of the aftermath from the plains people’s point of view about how they chose to remain of the plains of the abandoned rather than leave as three other groups – those that went to Haven and Solace, and those that went south never to be heard from again (Yes, more foreshadowing).

The plains people also claim to be morally superior for leaving a more modest life, as they purposefully are more primitive than the people of Haven and Solace (yes, this too is foreshadowing in some sense).

After the plains the heroes reach the remnants of a huge road that disappears out on the plains, but leads the heroes east through the mountains the high cliffs next to The New Sea, and from here, the heroes travel to the ruins of Xak Tsaroth.

The Module: Third Act

Now we enter dungeon-territory. The first part is the surface, where the remains of Xak Tsaroth are a muddy swamp.

Here the heroes encounter more draconians, and they discover a draconian temple, where they worship an alien god.

From a huge well a black dragon appears, and it briefly attacks the PCs, when the Blue Crystal Staff reveals more of its powers. The staff counters the acid blast from the dragon, and the monster retreats, when it sees the power of the staff.

Valiantly the heroes follows the dragon by entering a temple.

Inside they encounter statues for forgotten gods. As with the draconians’ statue, these are slightly alien. These gods are not quite human.

As with the original module they find an entrance to an underground city. The original Xak Tsaroth, the part that was swallowed up by the ground rather than the sea. Here they encounter more draconians and a weird race of slave people calling themselves the Aghar, who claims to be the ancestors of the original inhabitants of the city.

This statement is undermined by the remnants, that the heroes encounter. Here and there are flickering, bluish ghosts mindlessly repeating actions throughout the centuries. Some can be interacted with, and they can either answer simple questions about the city from before the destruction, but they are simple-minded and usually only talk about certain subjects or long forgotten products. Others guard certain buildings and can attack with shocking grasps.

Among other things they discover a library, where a ghostly librarian can make the books talk and display pictures revealing parts of the past.

Deepest down the heroes track down the dragon and its lair. They battle the dragon, and once more the Blue Crystal Staff counters the mighty powers of the dragon. The mighty battle causes the dragons lair to become unstable, and as it lies dying and the heroes retrieve the platinum tables of power, the cavern begins to collapse, and the heroes must flee, as the remnants of Xak Tsaroth is finally destroyed both underground and on the top. No traces are left, and the PCs are left with no evidence besides the metal discs (and in the chaos the staff has disappeared). The metal discs can magically display text telling the stories of the gods, and once more how to worship them in order to gain divine powers.

Discoveries in DL1

The PCs has now discovered the following:

  • Xak Tsaroth was a strange and fabulous city using arcane techniques, that are now lost and seems magical.
  • The dark forces are evil dragons and their draconian troops
  • That there are the unknown and strange Aghar-people of Xak Tsaroth
  • Flickering, bluish ghosts haunts the remnants of Xak Tsaroth
  • The Platinum Tables of Power enables the chosen of the old gods to communicate with them, and they grant the chosen divine powers.
  • The old gods look almost human

That was DL1. Next up is DL2.

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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

5 responses to “Re-Imagining DragonLance – part 1

  • James Hutchings

    Hi,

    Apologies for the off-topic comment, but I couldn’t find a contact email for you.

    A while ago I put out an ebook of my writing, called ‘The New Death and others’. It’s mostly short stories, with some obvious gamer-interest material. For example I have a story inspired by OD&D elves, as well as poems which retell Robert E Howard’s King Kull story ‘The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune’ and HP Lovecraft’s ‘Under the Pyramids’.

    I was wondering if you’d be interested in doing a review on your blog (either a normal book review, or a review of its suitability as gaming inspiration).

    If so, please let me know your email, and what file format is easiest for you, and I’ll send you a free copy. You can email me (news@apolitical.info) or reply to this thread.

    You can download a sample from Smashwords:

    http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/92126

    I’ll also link to your review from my blog.

    Yours,
    James.

  • Seng Choon

    Heyo, my players and I decided to give AD&D 2nd Ed a try, and have decided on the DL setting. Being a lazy DM I wanted to run the original modules, but after reading through them and being left extremely puzzled as to what is actually going on, I have decided that a series of lead-in adventures are necessary, and your post has given me some inspiration on how to do that. Many thanks, and I am extremely interested in reading your conversions for the rest of the modules!

    • Morten Greis

      Hi,

      Thanks for your comment. I am working on my next post covering DL2, but I have been awfully busy, so it has been running late, though it is coming up very soon.

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    […] I am solely dealing with the old modules from AD&D 1st edition. Previously I covered DL1 and DL2, and now it is time for DL3 Dragons of […]

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    […] 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 […]

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