Re-imagining DragonLance – part 0

So I have been playing DL1 Dragons of Despair and DL2 Dragons of Flame (publ. 1984) with AD&D 1st ed-rules, and between the two modules we implemented the DragonLance Campaign Setting Guide (1987).

Now I want to do a re-imagining of these old modules. If it can be done for TV-shows, then it can be done for roleplaying.

The good thing about DL1 was the okay dungeon-section being the marshy Xak Tsaroth and the awesome dungeon of the sunken, subterranean Xak Tsaroth. The bad things were the beginning of the scenario, which did not make much sense and was not very interesting.

Then came DL2, which was intensely boring for the first part, where I kept “telling” and “telling” and “telling” all these so-called exciting story-ish things, where NPCs did all the talking and the action, and it was once in a while interrupted by a brief combat-sequence, where the players got to do things. Soon we began skipping both descriptions and combats simply to get to a part of the module, where the events does not consists of NPCs doing and acting. That brought us to the dungeon of Sla-Mori and then to the fortress of Pax Tharkas. Here things got somewhat okay.

After that I began reading through the next modules to get an idea of what was happening, so after DL3, DL4 and DL6 – and the sourcebook DL5. Now that I have gotten to know the DL-modules, the contours of an interesting story is appearing to me. Just as Battlestar Galactica went through quite a change with the new series a few years back, so do I wish to present a new interpretation of the DL-modules.

In the next few posts I will cover each of the modules from DL1 to DL6. But before doing so, I will comment a bit on the material in the modules.

Behind the curtain

There is a lot of back story hidden in small references around the modules – and some seem even to be hidden in the private notes of the designers. In the back story of the NPC Elistan in DL5 – though the character is introduced in DL2 and plays a major role in DL3 and partly in DL4 – we learn of his struggles in Haven and the intrigues involving the villain Lord Verminaard, and this is also the section, where we learn a lot about Lord Verminaard, and this is mentioned no where in the description of Lord Verminaard himself.

In several places you get the feeling, that you as the GM only knows slightly more than the players, and that there is even more going on, that they (the designers) will hardly tell you about, but still assume is a vital part of what is going on. It worked for Tolkien, but he had a whole appendix to put these things into, the designers … well, they kinda had an appendix, they just did not use it very well.

It needs a rewrite

In several places it seems like new ideas were developed, which would actually ret-con earlier information, however as the modules we continuously being published, there was not any opportunity to go back and revise. In other places a clear knowledge of the books seems to be important, simply because the scenario neglects to tell us (both DM and players), what is going on. For instance in DL6 an NPC suddenly states, that the Orb is important and must be retrieved, though the Orb has never been introduced (it is described in the magic item-section of the module, but this section only reveals what the GM knows about it, not what is known by NPCs).

All the NPCs

The desire to tell an epic story has thrust the story into the hands of the NPCs leaving the players as bystanders, and this both wastes the setting and epic story, it is also boring. This basic flaw I generally attribute to the early age these modules were published in (being 1984), where the designers simply lacked the necessary tools to create this kind of product, and it ought to be possible to do it better by now.

So next up begins the science fantasy of DragonLance re-imagined.


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