Welcome to my third 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.
Of the modules that I have so far played and read, the second module, DL 2 Dragons of Fire, is the most troublesome as large parts of the module are heavily scripted to a level, where it becomes boring for both GM and players.
Basically the module wants the PCs to move from the ruined city of Xak Tsaroth, where DL1 ended, and have them travel through the plains seeing the destruction wrought by the draconians and then arriving at the City of Solace conquered by more draconians. Here the PCs are captured and later saved by the elves, and with some elves they travel to Pax Tharkas (where they would have ended up anyway had they not been rescued) in order to block Pax Tharkas and rescue the slaves.
All this in order to place the PCs in charge of 800 refugees fleeing south, where DL3 begins. During these travels are long descriptions and texts read aloud by the GM telling the players about all the important things the NPCs are doing, and these things are interrupted
The following is established in DL2:
- Lord Verminaard leads an army of draconias and dragons
- Toede Fewmaster serves Lord Verminaard
- Lord Verminaard has taken prisoners to work as slaves
- The elves are fleeing west, since they cannot stop the draconians
- Pax Tharkas was built by elves and dwarves, and with humans it was used against dragons in some ancient war, where Dragonlances were used.
- Also several NPCs are introduced, and they have more plot and character development, than the PCs.
In the re-imagining I want to establish most of those points, but also reveal some more the secrets of re-imagined Krynn, which contains some quite different elements, than the original modules.
So far the following points has been established:
- The New Gods are false, and dark forces are manipulating the priesthood of The New Gods
- Miracles are back, and our heroes are in contact with the true gods of old
- Strange “magics” were abound in the sunken city of Xak Tsaroth, and it was inhabited by draconians and an unknown species called Aghar working as slaves for the draconians
- The third group of emigrants went south past Pax Tharkas, and have not been heard from since.
And we need to establish the following points:
- The elves are leaving travelling west (leaving mankind alone against the draconians)
- Pax Tharkas were built by an alliance of the elves and the mysterious dwarves. Now it is inhabitated by the strange Aghars.
- During a war against the dragons a mysterious, powerful weapon called a “DragonLance” was employed.
- The mysterious, inhuman Lord Verminaard controls dragons and leads the draconian army.
- Fewmaster Toede serves Lord Verminaard
- The PCs are in charge of the refugees from Pax Tharkas, and the option is to go south following the path of the third group of emigrants.
- The lands of the survivors from the catastrophe (the plains people and the people of Haven og Solace) have fallen to the draconian armies.
Following the structure of the original module the first half is about travelling the to dungeon and the second half is exploring the dungeon. The next many DL-modules will follow this pattern. In the first half the PCs first return from Xak Tsaroth to Solace, then they travel south, where they encounter the elves, who tell them, they need to infiltrate Pax Tharkas, and from there the PCs travel to the secret entrance of Pax Tharkas and infiltrate the place from there. They sabotage the gate and then flee with the refugees travelling further south entering the territory of DL3 Dragons of Hope.
The module assumes that the PCs are captured by Fewmaster Toede in Solace, and are rescued by elves later, and that the PCs experience the elves doing a lot of stuff, and they see Laurana kidnapped, and meanwhile Elistan is having a crises of faith laying the foundation for later conversion to a priest of Paladine.
In the center: The PCs
The important thing here is to make the PCs the active party in the module. As of now the NPCs are doing all the important stuff, and in between the players get to roll a few dice and eliminate some random monsters, until we get to the dungeon. Once in the dungeon the players have more influence, but there are still some scripted sequences, that are cause for trouble (for instance the module presumes the PCs will rescue the children from the red dragon by dressing up as women and then lead all the children safely past the sleeping dragon. The reason for doing this is in part because that is what they did in the novel and in part because it is the plan suggested by an NPC. What the players don’t know is that this plan will automatically work, so they should just do it. This also assumes that the PCs sneaking in to save the children are not carrying the Wyrmslayer sword, they just picked up in the previous dungeon segment, as this sword according to its descriptions warns it wielder of dragons nearby by a loud humm, that automatically awakens any dragons, thus the automatic successfully plan encounters the automatic successfully spoiler).
DL2 reimagined – first segment
From Xak Tsaroth to Solace
Not much needs to be changed. The PCs have escaped from the destruction of Xak Tsaroth, and now waits only the journey home to Solace to lay new plans. As the PCs cross the plains of the abandoned people, they notice that the plains have been scourged. Destruction is everywhere, and the villages are in ruins. Everything is a wasteland, and people har been killed. Many have been burned to crisp (from the fire of the red dragons), others have been killed in battle (from claws and huge jaws), and the remainder have been taken away. In this wasteland the PCs encounter a small band of survivors, that tell the dreadful tale of mighty beasts led by a Lord Verminaard, who ordered the beasts to destroy the villages, and his army of hobgoblins commandeered by Toede Fewmaster has taken the survivors as slaves towards the south (where the group of survivors in the olden days fled). The survivors suggest that they should head for Solace to warn the town before it is too late.
This section I want to keep short, so minor encounters have been removed, as they only serve two purposes: introducing a new kind of draconian, and entertaining the players with a few random combats. This section can be stretched to become a struggle for survival, where the PCs and the survivors must traverse the destroyed lands – perhaps chased by a pack of draconians looking for survivors and travellers. This can be a small adventure in itself.
Mostly I want to foreshadow Lord Verminaard, Toede Fewmaster, and the red dragons for later use. I will put an emphasis on descriptions of Verminaard as mysterious foe always hidden behind a mask with great mystical powers and the gift of commanding dragons. Secondly I will remind the Players that the third group of survivors from the olden days went south and were never heard from again. This is naturally more foreshadowing.
If the players want to go south immediately I might choose either to challenge them with an arduous journey with few or no resources and a scourged land, or I might let them catch up a with a slave caravan not far from the land of the elves.
From Solace to the lands of the elves
This part in the original module is storywise interesting, but it is also heavily scripted rendering the players almost passive. Again is emphasis on empowering the players and their characters. In the module the city of Solace have been conquered and mostly destroyed, the people are prisoners and the place is being rebuild as a military camp. Elven spies have infiltrated the place with the help of the smith (as he is to play a major role later in the DL-stories), but they have been found out and all but one killed.
Not so this time.
The PCs encounter patrols of hobgoblins in the vicinity of Solace, and soon the PCs learn (perhaps from hobgoblin prisoners), that Solace have fallen and the people are prisoners of Toede Fewmaster. What are the PCs to do?
Leave it to the players to decide. They might want to slay Toede and liberate the city, or they might want to seek out Lord Verminaard instead, or perhaps they will go to Haven to warn the city of the oncoming army?
(I am assuming the PCs are being heroic, that is the basic premise of the story).
Meanwhile a group of elven spies plans to infiltrate the place. Their plans are to liberate a unit of elven warriors taken prisoners. The warriors were originally bound for Pax Tharkas, but encountered a northbound draconian army, were taken prisoner and brought to Solace for interrogation. The spies were elves who managed to escape and have since been tracking the army. At this point the PCs and the elves meet each other, and they can join forces.
In the city of Solace is also a small group of resistance fighters. They are being led by the black smith – who pretends he is too much of an idiot to be involved in the resistance, and he is the only smith with experience, so the draconians need his craftmanship. From this position he leads the resistance.
The basic situation is now, that the PCs can join forces with the elves and the resistance, and convince them to fight together. The elves want the elven prisoners liberated, and the black smith and his resistance fighters want Solace liberated.
The challenge to the situation is that there is an army of hobgoblins and draconians, and that many locals already have been transported elsewhere as slaves (in fact to Pax Tharkas).
In general I would let the PCs have the chance to unite the two groups in an attempt to rescue the remaining people in Solace and lead them securely away from the draconian and hobgoblin army. If the PCs fail, they are taken prisoners and transported away with the next slave caravan.
If they succeed they must decide if they will attempt to lead the prisoners to Haven (most will object fearing the draconians have already taken the city, others object because they want to find their loved ones, who’s been taken to Pax Tharkas). Alternatively they can find a refuge with the elves leaving the PCs to go to Pax Tharkas to liberate the slaves there (this will also allow the PCs to rescue the plains people). Most likely they will also be on the run from the draconian army.
From here it is fast forward to the land of the elves. Ideally the PCs lead the fugitives from Solace to the land of the elves. However being followed by the draconian army means, that the elves presence has been discovered, and the elven lands are now threatened. In order to divert the draconian forces coming from the north (i.e. from Solace) and soon from the south (Pax Tharkas), the elves need the heroes to go to Pax Tharkas and seal the gate. The elves know of a secret route into Pax Tharkas, so the heroes can either sneak through the Sla-Mori dungeons, or they can catch up with the latest slave caravan and either sneak aboard or be taken prisoners. Meanwhile the fugitives from Solace will be under the elves’ protection, and they will move with the elves towards the west, while the PCs delay the march of the southern draconian army.
(Notice that the prisoners on a slave caravan plot has been more or less abandoned. Now it either is an option the PCs choose to infiltrate Pax Tharkas or the consequences of failing to rescue the population of Solace)
(Note also that most the elven plot has been rewritten. Gone is the kidnapping of Laurana – as it is not about the PCs – and instead the PCs not accidentally becomes the cause of the elves being threatened and need to leave.)
To Pax Tharkas and Beyond
At present the PCs are charged with sealing the gate of Pax Tharkas to delay the southern draconian army and to rescue the slaves (plains people and Solace people, but also Haven people as they discover), so the elves can flee to safety.
This part of the module does not need many changes. Mainly the scripted events should be discarded, and the players given more options on how to seal the gate of Pax Tharkas. Likewise the way to rescue the slaves should be more open-ended and not tied to the story of the two red dragons.
What I would focus on instead is revealing the back story:
At this part most of the information that the players need to learn has already been presented (the elves are leaving, human lands have fallen, Lord Verminaard is a mysterious villain with great powers).
At Pax Tharkas the PCs discover the following:
In the gallery are ancient, defaced paintings of the builders of Pax Tharkas. It is revealed that the fortress was build ages ago (before the catastrophe) by elves and some other, unknown people. The PCs once again meet the strange Aghar-people, and now they learn that the aghar are primitive descendents of the original builders. The original builders, now all gone, are said to have a fabled kingdom to the south, and the aghar tells legends about The Seven Fabled Cities of their distant ancestors, and how they lived in luxury behind sturdy walls, that could even withstand the catastrophe that destroyed Xak Tsaroth (ideally the conclusion is drawn that the southern migrants went for the Seven Fabled Cities, and now the survivors of the two other migrant groups follow their paths as they escape south from Pax Tharkas unable to go north after sealing the fortress).
From other murals and paintings another thing is discovered. The fortress were once under attack from dragons of five colors, and from each color comes a specifik attack (in part it is to introduce the information of the different types of dragons and their breath weapons. Information the players most likely already have, and now their character do too). The fortress however is defended by an unknown order of knights seemingly human, neither elf nor mysterious builders, and they all wield long silvery weapons referred to as “DragonLances”, and these lances sprout death towards the dragons ending the assault on the fortress. (Introducing the idea of the dragonlance but not how it works. Right now it is a magical artefact that kills dragons).
Thus ends the second module. The PCs are leading the slaves from Pax Tharkas towards the south towards the Seven Fabled Cities of the Aghar’s ancestors and on the path of the lost migrant group. Now this might feel a little bit like Battlestar Galactica, and that is okay.
Next up is the third module, and this is where we really dive into the hidden story in the DragonLance-modules.