DragonLance: Playing Dragons of Despair

Recently we began playing DL1 Dragons of Despair, and we are doing so with the AD&D 1st edition rules as I covered in my previous post. It is interesting to play DL1. We are doing so solely on the module and with a vague memory of the novels. Since we are not using the DragonLance AD&D 1st ed.-supplement (or any later supplements for that matter), one of the things one notices is how little the module tells you about the setting, and this applies to both pre-generated or newly made characters. For instance the PCs are soon directed to “Xak Tsaroth”, but nowhere are there any clear instructions as to what this place is, and there is even less notes about, what the PCs are expected to know about this place, nor what they can learn before going there.

So what happened?

The PC’s meet for the first time in five years having tried to find a true cleric, but without any success. They get attacked by hobgoblins looking for a blue staff on the orders of Onyx. The leader of the hobgoblins (Toede Fewmaster) disappears without a trace, once he has issued his command to his troops (not just from the scene but also from the module, as he is not mentioned again in the text, so I have to cheat the players from following his trail).

Then the PCs reach the town of Solace, they enquire a little bit in the town and pick up a few clues, and the next day they are on their merry way, when they suddenly encounter to persons, who begins singing and playing instruments. Now it is naturally time for Goldmoons song, but the situation is actually quite awkward. Why are these two persons standing in the forest singing a song about their hardships? Also I can’t sing, so I ended up parafrsing the text instead.

Also I made the “error” of translating the names, Goldmoon and Riverwind, to our native language. It sounds silly.

After joining with the mysterious strangers and their magic blue staff, they all agree, that they should go west to Xak Tsaroth, thereby ignoring a long series of encounters, and now they are crossing a great plain having not met any draconians and only picked up vague signs of something being wrong, and yet they have played correct, making logical choices etc.

This leaves me with the conundrum as to how much we should play the module as it is written, or if we should play it closer to the implied narrative, thus for instance have the PCs encounter disguised draconians trying to trick them to reveal their blue staff?

Well, no matter what, we will next session reach the ruins of Xak Tsaroth and most likely spend the session navigating the swamps, and perhaps peek into the first part of the dungeon. I am really looking forward to this.


  1. I was curious about Dragonlance at the time, but hated using modules then almost as much as I do now. Most players at the time raved about how awesome the series was. Thanks for sharing the reality of things.

      1. That one I did play – on two separate occasions. The first time was with an established party, but we discovered more of a sympathy for the villains than for the victims and so quite heavily derailed the plot. The second was with a generic party we assembled for the purpose and it went more smoothly – if less enjoyably.

        Both attempts, although many years apart, were a long time ago. My strongest remaining impression of Ravenloft (the original) was that it had a lot of options for re-playability, and good atmosphere, but that it could be very heavy-handed.

    1. I guess they do 😀

      It is just sometimes things in foreign languages gain an extra flavour making even silly names souund cool, so English names are often a bit more cool, just a Latin words sound more occult etc. Thus we are more inclined to ignore the silliness, until we translate the names from Goldmoon to Guldmåne, and Riverwind to Flodvind (or Bækkeblæst or Åvind – we couldn’t really decide on the best translation, but Åvind caused the least laughter, so we chose that one).

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