So it became time re-making DragonLance. Initially my plan is to make one post for each module, and I intend to deal with DL1-6. The basic premise of the remake is, that the liberties that Battlestar Galatica Re-imagined took, I can take, and that material from the novels or campaign supplements will generally not be employed. The purpose is to uncover the story, that lies hidden in the DL-material.
Likewise I will also part for part reveal the new backstory for the campaign.
Addendum: My intention was initially to do a post on each of the modules, but as I began working with DL1 I realized, that a lot needed to be done, so this post will mostly deal with preparing the campaign and the prologue. In a sense I am adding a DL0-module to the series.
The players’ role
One of the major issues with DL is that, the NPCs get all the important plot- and character-developments leaving the PCs to march through dungeons killing monsters activating small storylets, where the players listen passively to more NPCs doing things.
This cannot do. So the players must have a considerably more central role, if not the central role.
The original modules suggests that the players can use their own characters, and that these have arrived near the beginning of the module for some reason, perhaps arriving from another world, but this is kept vague, and leaves quite a few questions unanswered (for instance what about druids?), and the module recommends, that the pre-generated PCs based on the novels characters are used. Yet the backstory for the characters’ unique position – The new priesthood worships false gods and we are going to find the true gods – is left undeveloped, until it is described in a short story in DL5. DL5 is unlike the rest of the DL-books not a module but background material.
So new characters are needed, but before we get to create new characters, let’s have a look at the first part of the story.
In need of a Prologue
If the story is to begin the same place more or less as the original module, we miss out on a lot of exciting things:
Riverwind has found the Blue Crystal Staff, and he and Goldmoon has been teleported far away from their home village.
(for some reason Riverwind journeys to Xak Tsaroth and picks up the staff, then returns to his home village, and with Goldmoon he is teleported away to somewhere else, and just before the PCs encounter Riverwind and Goldmoon, they have been assaulted by hobgoblins looking for a blue staff, and then with Riverwind and Goldmoon they go back to Xak Tsaroth with the staff. Convoluted and confusing, and apparently they need to do it, in order to pick up the platinum tablets of the good gods, that are being guarded by a dragon – but why are the tablets here, why this confusing stuff with the Blue Staff etc.? This can be kept more simple and straightforward by having the PCs journey out to find the Blue Staff, that will point them towards the Platinum Discs. The Blue Staff can be introduced through visions, that becomes available, once you realize that the new gods are false.)
Before that Lord Verminard has begun influencing the council of (false) priests in Haven, and Elistan from this council has begun doubting his (false) faith (so that he will convert to worshipping Paladine due to events in DL2 and DL3, where we encounter him).
Elsewhere the main characters have realised that the priests worships false gods, and they have decided to go find the true gods. During these travels one member of the group is led astray (Kitiara).
In other places the armies of the Dragonlords have begun marching and the fortress Pax Tharkas has fallen. In the modules the elves claims that betrayal has played a part in the fall of the fortress, however how and who etc. is not covered the module (DL2).
Some of these elements will enter the DragonLance DL0 Prologue.
What stays in the GMs notes did not happen
One of my rules for scenario design is, that anything that stays in the DMs notes didn’t happen. With the exception of the GM the shared experience of the roleplaying is what happens between the participants, and if there are secrets in the GM-notes that stays there, it is simply not a part of what happened. Assuring the players, that it is there in the GM-notes changes nothing, it is a bit like cutting an important scene from a movie and then assuring the audience, that the scene exists – it still is not a part of the viewing experience.
Some of the worst offenders, that I have read are the Planescape Campaigns (Dead Gods, Modron March, Faction War), that no matter how interesting they might have been, contains huge amounts of information, that are limited to the GM’s eyes and keeps the whole purpose of the campaigns secret for the players, and no matter how cosmic, grand and epic the plots are, if they are hidden for the players, they simply are not part of the play-experience, and then it doesn’t matter how cool they are.
The DragonLance-modules and setting-material (DL5) contains plenty of small references, that are hidden from for the players and sometimes even the DM. Especially if you don’t have the novels fresh in memory: Did you know, that Lord Verminaard has telepathic powers, which he uses to manipulate various NPCs – and if you knew, can you give the names of the manipulated NPCs and Eben does not count.
These elements reveal that a lot of the story has begun long before the first module begins, and that the all the exciting things happened to the PCs, while they were NPCs. That won’t do for this project, so before the first module can be played, a preceding story needs to be played, and for that we need characters, and new ones because I want the players to create the characters, who will become the heroes of the story.
Creating New Characters
Okay, here goes.
This time the players get to make their own characters, and they will be imbedded in the campaign, so they become the main characters instead of the pre-generated.
The players can choose the following races:
And the following classes:
- Fighter/Ranger (non-spell casting)
- Priest of the New Gods (who necessarily does not have any spell casting powers)
After the days of the cataclysm, when the gods destroyed the world, the survivors were abandoned by the gods. The survivors – or the Abandoned – were left on the great plains, that since were named Abanasinia from these ordeals. From these survivors three migrations took place, while the remaining stayed back. The staybacks became the descendants of the Que-people, who are divided into three main groups (Que-Shu, Que-Kiri and Que-Teh), and they shun civilised society (believing this to be the cause of the gods’ anger). Of the three migrations only two are known. The third went south and has never been heard from. The first migration settled in the forests and their new home became known as Solace – as this is what they found in the forests, and the second migration settled on the far side of the elven lands in a place named Haven, as this is what they found.
Hence there are three human societies to choose from, when making characters: The Que-tribes of Abanasinia, the people of Solace and the people of Haven. Kendars do not have a homeland, but are found wherever humans are.
Dwarves, gnomes and elves are not an option for reasons to be revealed.
The first module: DL0
This module will present the players for the setting, introduce the characters and cover elements, that were hidden away in GM notes, setting material and short stories.
In this module we learn the following:
- Dark powers are manipulating the priests of Haven
- The new gods are false
- The Song of the Blue Staff
The premise is the following: Our heroes becomes involved in the intrigues in Haven, where they meet Elistan, a priest of the New Gods, and they discover that a dark force is manipulating the priesthood of Haven thus weakening human society.
As a part of this realization the PCs soon discover, that the new gods are false, and that any miracles performed by the priests of the new gods are mere tricks.
Once this is realized, they receive a vision, that leads them to an ancient statue of an unknown woman (the statue might be hidden in a dungeon if a dungeon crawl is needed). In her possession is a Blue Crystal Staff with miraculous powers. From here the PCs are charged to go to Xak Tsaroth to recover the Platinum Discs.
Journeying towards Xak Tsaroth they begin to encounter the spies of the Dragonlords and people looking for a blue crystal staff forcing our heroes to stay out of sight.
Here we enter DL1.
Now the backstory (the gods are false), the hidden elements (elsewhere Lord Verminaard were corrupting the priests of New Haven) and more backstory (picking up the Blue Staff) becomes active parts of the game, rather than things happening out of sight. There are however several mysteries, that I have not touched upon yet, but in my following posts I will reveal the new background for DragonLance.
I have not gone into the details of DL0 (how does the PCs discover the dark force corrupting the priesthood etc.), as these details are easy to handle, once one starts writing the scenario. I want to focus on the larger elements of the DragonLance Campaign.
I appreciate the point about how the player experience of a session is the only thing that matters once the session is over.