Welcome to my fourth post in the series of re-imagining the DragonLance. Presently I am running the old modules from 1984 with the AD&D 1st ed.-rules. While playing them I discovered several things, that need to be fixed, and I also found a hidden story within the modules. With this re-imagining I will attempt to fix some of the flaws, and I will also present the hidden story in the modules.
After a long delay I continue here my re-imagining of DragonLance: 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 Hope:
Now this module is whole lot better than DL2. It contains a mini-game for the PCs guiding the 800 refugees rescued from DL2, and as usual the module consists of two parts. The first part covers the journey to the dungeon, and the second part covers the dungeon.
Though it still contains scripted events, a poorly written transition from DL2 to DL3 and several minor plot holes the module flows a whole lot easier and better than DL2. With the third module the secret history of DragonLance also becomes obvious in this module, a secret I will go into detail with in a separate post.
DL3 Dragons of Hope covers the search for the secret entrance to the kingdom of Thorbaddin. The PCs travel through the lands south of Pax Tharkas in search of clues, and soon their journey is directed towards the tomb of Fistandantilus, and once reached and explored, the PCs find the route hidden in the depths of the grave, and the modules ends. DL4 begins at the gate of Thorbaddin.
In this module little is learned. Most of the information retains to Fistandantilus, and that is mostly that he attempted to lead the humans into Thorbaddin and a mighty war took place, and that Fistandantilus released powerful magics from a different age. Also some dragons are good, and they are metallic rather than chromatic, as they are the evil dragons. Also there are shadowdragons, and they too are evil. It is less clear to me, whether or not the claim that dragons disappeared a long, long while ago is false, since the dragons at the grave of Fistandantilus disproves this. According to the dragons, then dragons (at least the good ones) were present as late as after the cataclysm some 300 years ago.
This time little needs to be changed. The little game can be tightened a bit, and the journey through the lands south of Pax Tharkas extended into a heroic journey. The scripted encounters with Fizban are among the things, that I will ignore, and instead I will focus on revealing a whole lot more of the back story. As with the previous modules I will also focus on a getting the PCs into the center of things, rather than the NPCs.
I have changed the dwarves’ role, so the villages of hill dwarves must naturally be removed. The encounters are not strictly necessary, but they can be replaced with humans eking out an existence in the mountainous regions. The humans are most likely survivors of the now forgotten war for entrance to Thorbaddin’s realm. The survivors might possess tales
However the lost city inhabited by the Aghars remains, as it plays an important role, and thus they remain in place.
The Refugee aspect of DL3 has great potential, as there is a lot of character driven game in this, but the module does not utilize this. Somewhere between the second and the third module the refugees suddenly organize themselves in several different groups and found a council, who appoints the PCs to lead them to safety. There is no reason to skip this part, but instead give the players a say in how, they think the refugees should organize themselves, and let them help with appointing leaders or be the leaders themselves: Should the form a council, or should they simply lead the refugees, or should some other system be used? Use the NPCs from the module as potential spokes persons and leaders, and use them to challenge the players’ decisions.
From being a resource-management game this can become a character-driven challenge, and if you lack inspiration, then take a look at the tv-show Battlestar Galactica for inspiration.
This part is mechanically vague, and is tied into several scripted encounters, which were hopelessly forced, when we played them. By removing Fizban these encounters can become quite exciting in their own right. The best approach is to remove the scripted encounters and the mechanics for the chase, and instead recreate them as challenges for the players:
- Caught by the advancing forces, the PCs must lead the refugees in silence through a snow-covered ravine in order not to bury the refugees in tons of snow.
- A small group of refugees has been lost in a snow storm. What to do? Wait for them to return, go back and look for them, or keep moving?
- A group of refugees has refused to follow the lead of the PCs, and they have gone their own way, when it is discovered that the group is being led into a trap. Can they be saved?
- A group have fallen behind, and the PCs must lead them unseen through the lines of the advance guard.
- Perhaps the enemy must be led astray. Who can generate false tracks and how? Must some be sacrificed to create a convincing lead? Who decides, and whom must be chosen?
There are plenty of options to create several exciting scenes with the PCs trying to lead the refugees to safety, and combining this with the ordeal of leading the refugees and dealing with their council, then there are plenty of options.
The main point is to place the PCs in the center of the events, and to give them some very hard choices to make.
The Malign Influence of Lord Verminaard
Lord Verminaard has haunted (and hunted) the PCs since DL2, and ideally was foreshadowed in DL1 and even earlier, so he should of course also appear in this module. Seen leading his troops and flying on his dragon in the distance, but since he possesses powerful mental abilities, and since this is hinted in DL3 and DL5 he can naturally also influence any spokespersons and council members, partially recreating Lord of the Rings, where Gandalf confronts the king of the Rohirrim, and frees him from Saruman’s influence. Likewise the corrupting influence can also begin, and this can add an additional aspect to the game, as Lord Verminaard attempts to corrupt one of the leaders and sow dissent within the ranks of the refugees by forming a secret Cult of Takhisis guided by the ethereal presence of Lord Verminaard.
The PCs must now deal with a magically corrupted leader and the cult of Takhisis, and one option is to spread the word of old gods, and tell the refugees, that the gods of old has returned, and that their faith in the new ones is misguided.
Dealing with the cult gives the players an idea of, who and what their enemy is, and it puts Lord Verminaard in a nefarious position, where he can safely deal with and challenge the PCs (this also foreshadows his dream-presence in DL4).
The Next Part
The second half of the module I will cover in an upcoming post, and that part will focus on the aspects that reveal the true nature of the DragonLance world. In that part the player’s will no longer be in doubt as to the presence of the secret history and the scale of the post-apocalyptic story.
The next part will cover specific locations in the module, among other things The Steam City, and The Tomb of Fistandantilus.