In my previous post I argued, that DragonLance is really not fantasy as much as it is a post-apocalyptic science fiction or science fantasy disguised as fantasy – mostly due to the fact that the story and the setting is planted in the D&D-game.
The main evidence for DragonLance being a science fiction comes from the third and fourth module (and perhaps later in the series, but I have not studied the material that far yet), and it comes partly in the shape of some curious magic items and from vague descriptions, and then from archetypical science fiction narratives and tropes, such as domed cities connected by automated cars or trains and from “gods” destroying the world with “catastrophic” rains of fire – which in the world of pseudo-history as proponed by Ancient Alien Theorists is clear evidence of advanced aliens using nuclear weaponry and such like.
In the following I will sum up some the tropes, but others will be covered in detail in my post Re-Imagining DragonLance – Part 3b.
Degenerate People Living in the Ruins
The Aghar or Gully Dwarves are an obvious example of this (DL1, DL2, DL3)
Domed Cities Connected by Train
The seven underground cities of Thorbaddin in DL4 are a perfect example reminiscent of the cities in for instance Logan’s Run.
Doomed City Maintained in a Ritualistic Manner
The Steam City in DL3 inhabited by Gully Dwarves are an example of this. The city is supposed to run by steam utilizing the natural resources, but slowly it is collapsing as the city is falling apart.
Worshipping Forgotten Tech
The same Gully Dwarves in Steam City protects an ancient artefact, that they have lost the ability to use. The artefact is a black crystal on whose surface text appears, when the crystal is asked questions. This is a computer, and again this follows a not uncommon trope of lost tech in a post-apocalyptic world.
Lost City Protected by Invisible Guardian
In DL4 the PCs reach an ancient city or advanced tomb guarded by a gold dragon tied to the place, who uses an assortment of spells and shape shifting to interact with the PCs as a harmless guardian of the place. In science fiction terms the PCs have reached an automated city maintained by an artificial intelligence manifesting itself through robot and/or holographic projections.
Frozen For The Future
Another trope is the past trapped in ice in such a manner, that it easily can be observed and thus represents a perfect image of the past. In DL6 the PCs find a knight and his dragon mount trapped in ice.
Flickering blue light
Strange ghosts and mysterious lights are present in both Xak Tsaroth og Fistandantilus’ grave (DL1, DL3), and time and again the ghosts in these sequences the ghosts are mechanically carrying out the same everyday action as from before the apocalypse. Ghosts repeating themselves in this manner are somewhat known from folklore, but these are very detailed actions with spoken lines etc. This is just as easily understood as remainders of holographic projections running own centuries later. A common element in post-apocalyptic fiction.
In the marshes around Mount Skullcap, where Fistandantilus has his fortress are rotting war machines. These machines have been here for 300 years. Had they been catapults and ballistae they would have rotted away long ago, which is not the case. So what are these ‘war machines’? High tech weaponry slowly rusting away.
Inside the grave of Fistandantilus (DL3) is a dragon trapped in a stasis field. The module does not explain the presence of the force field. It just is there, and it is hardly portrayed as a magical phenomenon, thus again a science fiction element.
When Fistandantilus was defeated he took all with him, allies and enemies in a blast, that ruined his fortress and killed everyone on the battlefield leaving the aforementioned war machines. From one point it is just a powerful spell out of reach of the PCs, on the other hand this is just as well some sort of neutron blast, that left the war machines, but destroyed all living beings.
The dwarven helmet
At the end of the third module the PCs find the passage to the Gates of Thorbaddin, but they also find a dwarven helmet, that for some reason is inhabited by its previous owner, who magic jars into anyone who handles the helmet to tell his sad tale and have his helmet returned to his grave (in the next module). This is a curious thing, and again it may be magic – the module describes it as a magic jar-effect, but it does not describe, how or why this happened, but the science fiction point of view, this helmet carries an AI, and in this case the AI is most likely a primitive imprint of the original owner, who made it in his dying moments to send a message home, a message 300 hundred years late, but now the PCs are here, and the AI-imprint briefly manifests in the wearer of the helmet to deliver its message.
There are more science fiction-elements to be dug out of DragonLance, and more of those in up-coming posts on re-imagining DragonLance. The presence (or absence) of the science fiction-elements does not change the flow of the modules, and can be ignored, if a reconstruction of the modules is all, that is desired.
There is one more way to view the general story of the DragonLance-modules, one that does not change the flow much either, but one that adds an extra dimension. More of this on the third post on the hidden history of DragonLance. Also coming up is the second half of the Re-Imagining DragonLance Part 3.