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D&D 2E [A semi-Let's Read] The unsung genius of the 2nd Edition Dragonlance Chronicles

Libertad

Adventurer
Hello everyone. Some of you may not know this, but sometime last year I did a sort-of Let's Read compiling a list of changes made to edition conversions of the Dragonlance Chronicles adventure series. Someone else on the Something Awful FATAL & Friends thread was already doing a review proper for the original AD&D series, so I thought to post how things were different in the 2nd & 3rd Edition versions. 2nd Edition technically had 2 versions: a straight conversion sometime in the 90s, and a 15th Anniversary Edition published in 1999 that was dual-statted for 2nd Edition and SAGA System. I don't see much talk about the latter, as it was released during the tail-end of AD&D, and SAGA was not well-received among gamers at the time. However, it is my humble opinion that this version of the Dragonlance Adventure Path is perhaps the best one written. There's various reasons for this, but one of them is that it blows up the railroad tracks in a massive way. Furthermore, most of the adventures can more or less be played out of order. It's not a complete sandbox, but to use a video game analogy it would be akin to a Bioware RPG: there's a main plot and pre-determined places to explore, but you can do them out of order and in several cases the order in question can cause elements in the plot to change, both big and small. It's even possible to end the campaign early, bypassing critical points such as the Battle of the High Clerist's Tower, and the party does not have to split up in Tarsis like they do in the books and 1st/3rd Edition versions. Although I can link the post proper here, SA sometimes gets hit with a paywall so I'll copy things for ease of convenience. Without further ado...


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So in the interim time between the final few entries for the Dragonlance Chronicles and my 3rd Edition Changes, I’ve managed to read all of Dragonlance Classics: 15h Anniversary Edition. Interestingly the 2nd Edition update had not one but two translations. The 2nd Edition DL Classics were originally a 3-volume set compiling the Autumn, Winter, and Spring arcs into their respective books. For the most part they’re straight translations of the original modules: they have the same encounters, art, and general plotlines but with some small changes here and there in word choices or stat blocks.

But TSR did something special during the advent of 1999. Marking the 15th Anniversary of the Dragonlance setting, it was dual-statted for both 2nd Edition AD&D and the SAGA System. But even moreso, the adventure received a complete overhaul in many key areas.

General Changes: The infamous railroading is considerably opened up in places, allowing the PCs to play the adventures out of order but in a still narratively plausible format. The party doesn’t even have to split up during the invasion of Tarsis, and the book has suggestions on how to handle that as well. Furthermore, a lot of the dungeons are shortened considerably: instead of room-by-room descriptions, most entries sum up important characters, scenes, and specific rooms with random encounters used as ‘filler’ material. Instead of using the 12 module titles “Dragons of X,” there are 36 different chapters based mostly on location. Each chapter has a side-bar for how things were done in the novels and how the adventure differs.

Not only that, 15th Anniversary has more of a “storybook” feel in places, with sample lines of dialogue for various NPCs; this is especially true for the DMPCs who join the party, and the book does a great job of bringing to life characters who were originally mostly lines of stat blocks. At times I wondered if such things were taken out of the novels, but this is present even for characters and events not in the book series: there’s sample lines for Aran Tallbow when the PCs are in Southern Ergoth. Aran’s the Solamnic knight companion of Derek Crownguard who actually dies early on offscreen at Icewall Castle in the novels, so this is more or less new territory.

I’m not going to be as exhaustive in listing changes as I was when doing my 3rd Edition posts. I’m going to sum up major stuff here broken up by the respective seasonal arcs. I will also note points of DIVERGENCE where PCs can skip ahead, do modules out of order, or changes to the plot which either excise material or add new ones previously not present.

Dragons of Autumn Arc

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What better moment to surmise this series than with artwork of Verminaard’s iconic defeat?

Despair: The initial starting point at the Inn of the Last Home is expanded upon considerably, and the PCs have lots of moments to role-play with each other and various other characters. Some aspects are lifted from the novels, such as Kitiara’s messenger saying that she cannot make it, as well as a drunken Seeker who is meant to be set up as a strawman who gets into an argument with Goldmoon and Fizban over the worthiness of the true gods. Said Seeker also has a habit of arbitrarily arresting attractive women who “tempt others with lustful thoughts.” Ironically most of the points he raises (such as the Cataclysm and its destruction) are valid, and Fizban gets the party in trouble when the Seekers inevitably realize that the Blue Crystal Staff has magical powers. The wacky old wizard claims that the party’s in league with spirits of Evil.

Fizban continues to cry out and claim the heroes are in league with Evil spirits. If one of the heroes challenges him or tries to claim that he or she has nothing to do with anything Evil or the magical staff, he pulls that hero close and says, “I know that. You know that. But they won’t believe that. I think you’d best get yourselves to Xak Tsaroth. Be rid of the staff, and you’ll be in the clear. Now get. You all have a destiny to fulfill.”He pushes the hero away with a wink.

Paladine is a dick.

There’s also an encounter straight from the novels where Toede’s goblin soldiers chase the PCs across the trees of Solace, along with the constellations of Paladine and Takhisis vanishing from the night sky once they escape town. Furthermore, an interesting thing is that the Red Dragonarmy soldiers throughout this module include humans as well as hobgoblins and draconians. They’re rank and file and not just officers, clad in red chainmail Dragonarmy uniforms, but anything else about them such as names or their homelands are left unmentioned.

Xak Tsaroth is pretty similar, although the secret tunnels of the gully dwarves give the PCs a major advantage in ambushing and bypassing several encounters. Bupu in particular has several lines of dialogues for various rooms.

Flame: DIVERGENCE: Even back in Despair it’s possible for the PCs to be captured and taken alive by the Dragonarmies. They’ll be taken to Pax Tharkas, meaning that it’s technically possible to play the rest of the Chronicles without having rediscovered the Discs of Mishakal. Although the module seriously advises that the PCs should head back to Xak Tsaroth eventually if only due to the power of having true cleric spells.

There’s more talk of Qualinesti and various elven NPCs interacting with Gilthanas and/or Laurana, particularly if one or both are being controlled as PCs. The city of Qualinost has a few encounters, such as spell-less elven priests who try to kidnap Goldmoon/Prophet in belief that the Gods of Good would never give divine magic to the lesser races, or shapeshifting sivak draconians who infiltrated elven territory. If Laurana is a PC, instead of being kidnapped another elven woman may be snatched by Toede’s wyverns and is in fact the daughter of a new semi-important character: said character is an elf named Brookland who plays some semi-important roles, such as liberating people from the slave caravan and can be met in Pax Tharkas’ mines. He forms a new refugee faction composed primarily of Qualinesti elves and half-elves.

Eben Shatterstone is excised completely from this adventure.

DIVERGENCE:The game acknowledges that PCs may wish to depart the railroad tracks and retake northern Abanasinia, and suggests doing various “guerilla warfare” style encounters before the Blue Lady (Kitiara) comes to aid Verminaard against the local uprisings at which point the region becomes “too hot” for PCs. The book acknowledges that this is beyond the scope of things even for them, and that if the PCs persist then there can be a massive jump past much of the campaign as either Silvara or Ladine Dralathalas (a Silvanesti elf who is a new DMPC in this version only) will come to the PCs and try to get them to visit Sanction or Silvanesti respectively.

PCs may also offer to help the elves escape to several ports full of ships departing for Southern Ergoth. This is an optional chapter of its own where the PCs have to dodge, outsmart, or fend off draconian soldiers and red dragons setting forest fires. The PCs can either choose to board the ship and head for Southern Ergoth (which jumpstarts the “Dragons of Winter” arc) or go back and help liberate the slaves from Pax Tharkas.

Dragons of Hope: The Seekers include a leader by the name of Locar, a contrarian idiot who thinks that Verminaard is a reasonable fellow and that the slaves should go back and seek his mercy. He has a variety of other awful ideas and it’s presumed that the refugees put up with him due to some cult-like devotion.

Dragons of Desolation: The vast majority of the Thorbadin stuff is cut. The Hammer of Kharas is already recovered by Arman, who meets up with the PCs while they’re exploring the dwarven halls. Instead of being under house arrest in Hylar or searching a floating tomb, the module more or less goes straight to the final fight with the giant pit in the Temple of Reorx. The Daergar clan of dark dwarves pretend to be friendly and escort Arman’s group and the PCs into the trap. Instead of Eben being present during the betrayal, Verminaard double-crosses the Daegar Thane by taking the Hammer of Kharas for himself. The Theiwar clan also hate the Daegar and side with Verminaard’s forces during the battle, with the Daegar being a third party in the free-for-all.

As is dramatically appropriate, Verminaard can intuitively sense if any PCs are divine spellcasters of the Gods of Good and will try to fight Goldmoon or an appropriate character in one on one combat.
 

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Libertad

Adventurer
Dragons of Winter Arc

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“Umm Tanis, I don’t think we should trade Ansalon’s freedom for some lip and tongue action…”

DIVERGENCE: This is also during the Spring Arc of adventures, but is not keyed to any specific adventure. It is triggered pretty much anytime the PCs find themselves captured alive by the Dragonarmies or their allies. The Highlord’s Offer is a chapter of its own where Kitiara visits one or more captured PCs under heavy guard. Dressed as the Blue Dragon Highlord, she takes off her helmet to dramatically reveal her identity, and does a classic Vader “join me and we can rule Ansalon together” offer. She also talks down Verminaard, claiming that he was a brute and that the Dragon Empire will be more civilized under her reign. If the PC(s) refuses her offer, she will let them go, but with a warning that she will not hesitate to kill them next time if they remain on their rebellious path.

But if the PCs offer to join, they will be sent to the Solamnic frontlines. Their stay as officers in the Blue Dragonarmy will be short-lived, as Kitiara’s second-in-command Bakaris is jealous of the favoritism and will arrange to have their efforts sabotaged. Either Silvara, Ladine Dralathalas, or a nameless Solamnic spy will join up with the PCs and give them an opportunity to escape. Silvara will take the PCs to Sanction to recover the good dragon eggs, while Ladine will take them either to Silvanesti or Port Balifor to aid the local resistance cells there. The nameless Solamnic spy happens only after the Battle of the High Clerist’s Tower. Instead she will have the same hook as Silvara, but based on “insider intelligence” on a Dragonarmy secret program rather than a dragon’s-eye view of the Oath.

Dragons of Ice: The only mountain pass leading to the city being sealed up by Thorbadin’s dwarves shortly after the Cataclysm. This is the rationale for nobody from the north knowing about Tarsis being land-locked for three centuries.

The PCs meet up with two Knights, Derek Crownguard and Aran Tallbow, who are search for the Library of Khrystann in the city, and the party can help them find its location and learn of the Dragon Orbs from its texts. The PCs also meet Alhana Starbreeze during a meeting with the Governor of Tarsis, who attempts to arrest both parties to appease the Dragonarmies. The Knights help free the heroes, but the PCs are then faced with the dual choice of helping either Derek and Aran finding the Orb in Icewall Castle as detailed in the Library, or going with Alhana east to Silvanesti. Her griffons are in some local city stables and thus need to be freed when the Dragonarmies attack the city.

DIVERGENCE: There’s no big “split the party” suggestion besides the sidebar outlining what happened during the novels. In fact, both paths allow the PCs opportunities to potentially complete the other adventures depending on how things go.

Also, after killing Verminaard and spreading the knowledge of the true gods, the PCs’ exploits become famous and Kitiara in particular becomes obsessed with tracking them down. More so than in the 1st and 3rd Edition Chronicles, there are more opportunities that Dragonarmy officers will recognize the PCs’ faces.

The 2 Solamnic knights get into a disagreement over the dragon-rider encased in ice. As the only known dragons at this time are allied with Evil, Derek believes him to be a fallen knight, while Aaron mentions that during the last Dragon War knights rode upon dragons on the side of Good.

At some point during the adventure, Derek will reveal his less-than-ideal knightly status. Such as by fleeing during a hard battle. This will be the onset of Aaron’s disillusionment with Derek, and as such will begin to side more with the PCs during various disagreements.

It’s possible for Feal-Thas to survive, either via escaping or if the PCs never visit the Icewall region such as by doing Alhana’s Silvanesti arc. It is possible that he will remain White Dragon Highlord and be present during the final adventure in the Temple of Takhisis rather than Toede.

The PCs are also totally within their means of finding the frozen ships in Ice Mountain Bay without conquering Icewall Castle. The PCs can also depart from the knights and leave them with the Dragon Orb to head to the Whitestone Council by themselves; this is especially the case if the PCs either wish to go and help Alhana (where they’ll find her while wandering the Plains of Dust) or report back to the refugees in Thorbadin of developments.

Dragons of Light: There are two separate opening scenes based on whether the PCs are arriving on an elven ship from Qualinesti or a ship from Ice Mountain Bay.

The PCs can encounter Fizban as one of several hostages in a pirate ship. If freed he will just as much be a help as a hindrance, his magic causing collateral damage which will eventually sink said pirate ship. DIVERGENCE: If detained the PCs will be sold to the ogres in Daltigoth and have their valuables and Dragon Orb confiscated.

It’s possible that the PCs may have a letter of passage from Alhana if they helped her, or be with Ladine Dralathalas. However, the Silvanesti are still huge dicks and will presume the letter a forgery and attempt to place Ladine and the PCs under house arrest. When Theros and Silvara free our heroes, they will gain the unlikely aid of Dalamar who will use illusion and magic missile spells to force pursuing Silvanesti into a retreat. This is the only time Dalamar ever shows up in the Chronicles series of modules; for those who haven’t read the Legends trilogy, he eventually becomes Raistlin’s apprentice.

The silver dragon D’argent is Silvara in disguise; there are no other options and her personality is greatly expanded upon with bonus dialogue lines. She is a bit of a crybaby, especially when the knights (Derek in particular) initially do not trust her motives. DIVERGENCE: there will come a point when these personality clashes threaten to split the party. Silvara wishes to lead the PCs to the secret Dragonlance forges in Foghaven Vale, but Derek wishes to continue to Sancrist by heading through ogre territory in Thunder Pass. Derek can be convinced to stay if the PCs side with Silvara and if they gained Aaron’s earlier respect. When it becomes clear that Derek will be going by himself in this case, he reluctantly stays with the party.

If the PCs visit the Qualinesti refugees, a group known as the Youngbloods will try to persuade Gilthanas into siding with them in a coup. They feel that the current leader and heir apparent (who are Gilthanas’ father and brother respectively) are too weak and not taking enough action against the Silvanesti neighbors with which they’re feuding. The Youngbloods are a potential villainous faction for the PCs to deal with, but if the party sides with them they soon prove treacherous allies. They will seek vengeance upon Gilthanas when it turns out that most Qualinesti do not want an all-out war, for their plans appear to be in tatters.

Finally, the Ogre lands are detailed a bit more. The PCs may either be passing through with Derek, have gotten captured, or have to free said knights (and a possible absconded Dragon Orb) if they got waylaid. There’s a rather amusing encounter where a sivak draconian is trying to turn the ogres into a proper fighting force at a border checkpoint, but the PCs can bribe the ogres for a pittance to turn on and kill the sivak in exchange for passage.

While in Foghaven Vale, Silvara has the power to teleport the party inside the Stone Dragon’s chambers, but will only do so if the PCs are failing to find ways to get inside or if the knights and/or PCs visibly demonstrate that they do not trust her.

The Silvara/Fizban fight still happens, but has proper boxed text which casts the god-wizard in a more threatening light. If the PCs side with Fizban, he will scold them, saying that “she was, after all, only trying to help” before vanishing into thin air. The PCs will thus have to fight the white dragons alone at the end of the module.

Paladine was, and still is, a dick.

DIVERGENCE: The PCs can choose to take the Dragonlances to the Solamnic Knights in Sancrist. Or if they did not help liberate Pax Tharkas, have to visit Thorbadin to gain the Hammer of Kharas to ensure the forging of true dragonlances. At this point the PCs will either continue on the Dragons of Flame route and liberate Pax Tharkas, or Verminaard may have taken control of Thorbadin himself at the DM’s discretion.

Dragons of War: The Whitestone Council has its own chapter and more involved role-playing. Derek can be a foil as he portrays himself in as favorable a light as possible and takes credit for deeds performed by others when called upon to report past events. He’ll challenge any PCs who confront him to a duel, which will be defused by Gunthar. When the Council devolves into infighting over how to use the Dragon Orb, Fizban shows up and smashes it. Just about everyone is about to kill him, either the PCs or Theros Ironfeld interrupts this by dramatically revealing the Dragonlances. If the party hasn’t found said Dragonlances yet, Fizban does not show up and Gunthar tells them about the fables of the secret Dragonlance forge.

DIVERGENCE: There’s more discussion of the environs and personalities of Castle Eastwatch, where Lord Gunthar resides. If the PCs obtained a ship from Flotsam and sailed to Sancrist/Palanthas this way, Silvara and Theros will be among some Qualinesti Youngbloods who are hosts in the castle and got lost at sea. The quests regarding said various characters can be used here as pretext for the PCs to visit Southern Ergoth. Silvara will reveal a hidden passageway near the castle that leads to the Stone Dragon of Ergoth, while Ladine and/or Lord Gunthar may know of rumors of the Dragonlance forge as well. Lord Gunthar will be very cross if the party departs without due warning, as he’ll presume the worst and conduct a days-long search party across the island for them.

There’s a lot more to do in the city of Palanthas, albeit mostly in the vein of sidequests. They include such things as the PCs becoming overnight celebrities as bards’ tales of their exploits have spread far and wide, investigating an attempted arson at the local Knights of Solamnia chapterhouse with a corrupt city senator as the responsible party, helping restore a fallen temple of the Gods of Light to working order, and trying to gain an audience with Astinus of the Library of Palanthas to learn something or other.

DIVERGENCE: Additionally, the PCs can meet Ladine and the Silvanesti ambassador in Palanthas, where they can take a month-long voyage to the elven homeland to aid Alhana Starbreeze. She can accompany the party as a DMPC to Southern Ergoth and other places if they promise (or have already) aided her in finding an end to the Silvanesti Nightmare. This can take place before or after the Battle of the High Clerist’s Tower.

The Battle of the High Clerist’s Tower is similar to the other versions, although the knights take trespass upon this holy ground much more seriously: unless the PCs found some vital resources to turn the tide during the Battle they will be arrested if found out and potentially executed. PCs can gain the aid of the former High Clerist, Yarus, by helping him win the Khas (Dragonlance’s version of chess) against his spectral adversary: a priest of Sargonnas. There’s more backstory, where on the night of the Cataclysm said priest under house arrest seemingly befriended Yarus and had his agents infiltrate the Tower to free their master and kill the Knights. The Cataclysm hit before they could finish their mission.

But there is one bonus encounter, derived straight from the novels: at some point Kitiara will arrive masked on dragonback and engage Sturm in one on one combat. In the novels this was one of the most tragic moments, as Sturm died and the Heroes of the Lance realized that their former friend was indeed aligned with the enemy. However, the battle’s outcome is decided upon the dice...somewhat. Sturm can survive, although Kitiara will retreat when the Battle turns against the Dragonarmies.

Dragons of Deceit: There’s a chance that former allies and/or DMPCs the PCs parted ways with or thought dead will be found on the slave markets. Silvara will not be among them, as even in elf form she’s too powerful to be kept in captivity for long. Additionally it is noted that there are trolls among the Dragonarmy camps, but in comparison to the other monsters they are barely above animal intelligence and kept in pens; they must be fed a meat-heavy diet, and will break out and rampage if denied “treats” of humanoid slaves or not kept under heavy enchantment by local Black Robe Wizards.

This also applies to the later Spring arcs in occupied Eastern Ansalon, but the Dragonarmies are full of sexual predators and downright creepy dudes. Dragonarmy soldiers standing guard may catcall at attractive women, and female PCs who ask for lodgings or work will be given directions to the nearest brothel accompanied with perverse laughs and leers. In the city of Neraka the PCs can earn the gratitude and safe haven from a local shopkeeper if they save his teenage daughter from being abducted in broad daylight by draconians and minotaurs who have been stalking and making sexual suggestions at her.

There’s also a case of implied pedophilia where some Dragonarmy officers in Sanction sexually harass a girl who is actually a red dragon in disguise. If the PCs don’t intervene she makes short work of them with strength far beyond her mere form. Said dragon is Firestorm, Emperor Ariakas’ former mount who got demoted for being too unpredictable and secretly hopes to kill the Emperor herself. She has a lair connecting to the Temple of Luerkhisis, and eavesdropping PCs can witness her engaging in childlike behavior such as merrily skipping on top of lava and swirling it around with her toes while ‘playfully’ flinging at it with some priests of Takhisis who reflexively jump back. Firestorm is a very old red dragon, but her behavior and description makes her sound like a child.

But back to Sanction proper: there are some more encounters, such as a bard who is secretly working for the Dragonarmies pretending to search for ‘noble heroes’ or exhorting the mostly-frightened crowd into rebelling against tyranny. This is part of a trap to lead PCs into an ambush. There’s also an insane priest of Sirrion (god of fire, art, and alchemy) who ends up in a fight with a cleric of Takhisis over his blasphemy. There are a few opportunities where the PCs can run into Kitiara while here, and if she recognizes them they can be in deep trouble without some quick thinking.

PCs can arrange for distractions to lighten security around the temple containing the good dragon eggs. Suggestions include inciting riots in the army camps, letting loose the trolls from their pens, and/or making use of local rebel cells or the shadowpeople.

Instead of being teleported to the Dragon Isles, the PCs will need to manually escape the temple while one of the accompanying metallic dragons (Silvara or Cymbal) take flight to inform the rest of the metallic clans of the betrayal of the oath. The metallic dragons will dramatically arrive in Sanction to destroy the stationed Dragonarmies and take control of the Temple of Luerkhisis to save the remaining eggs. Tombfyre may be encountered and fought during the chaos, where she will transform into her dragon form if stopped during her reign of mayhem (“what, can’t a girl have some fun?”).

There’s a chapter after this one where the PCs can ride upon dragonback and meet with the Solamnic Knights’ leadership, and role-play out an alliance where the dragons join the Whitestone forces. It even has some kickass art!

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Not to worry, the dragon leaders mention that they will be fighting as equals in spite of the knights’ initial obsequiousness.

DIVERGENCE: There’s an awful lot of ways that the “rescue the good dragon eggs” may be triggered, which in a way makes this the most variable opening quest/chapter. Silvara may not even be involved! While the 1st and 3rd Edition Chronicles have her meet up with the PCs in Palanthas after the High Clerist’s Tower, the party can also meet her upon the open road or even in disguise in that very city.

As for post-adventure DIVERGENCE, PCs may either go straight to Neraka, or they may head east to Khur instead for some reason. They can also take part in liberating the city of Kalaman with the aid of the metallic dragons, which is a new chapter in this book but has more suggestions rather than outright encounters.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
Dragons of Spring Arc

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Although Dragons of Triumph combines both parties back into one for the campaign’s climax, the Dragons of Spring arc has more or less been the adventure path’s low point in terms of plot. The saving of Silvanesti is the only major thing of consequence, and the following adventures’ revelations lack the dramatic impact of the Winter arc’s high points. The 15th Anniversary Edition is quite adamant in making the PCs partake of the Winter arc’s most climactic moments, although it’s possible for PCs to play a more or less straightforward “Spring” arc. The only major difference is that the revelations at Sanction are heavily encouraged even if the PCs do not partake in the Battle at the High Clerist’s Tower, while both the Silvanesti elves and the rebels in Khur encourage naval passage to western Ansalon as rewards to put the party on the Winter path.

Dragons of Dreams: Much of this module is similar to the 1st/3rd Edition, although there’s more lines of dialogue and character development for Alhana. She is initially a snooty, racist princess that can grate even on Silvanesti PCs, but over time learns to respect the party’s valor and can possibly fall in love with a male hero. Additionally, the means of freeing King Lorac from the Nightmare are pre-determined rather than being generated randomly: Alhana must deliver a killing blow to her own father. She will be horrified at the result of this prediction, trying to find other means, but will eventually accept this price but even then the PCs must be moral support in order to carry out the deed during the battle with Cyan Bloodbane.

The capital city of Silvanost has a super-creepy map made of screaming faces:

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Since the dreamvisions of characters from the Winter arc can be very well encountered by PCs who first went with the knights, seeing visions of people like Silvara have much greater meaning rather than just for the players to go “oooh what are they doing here?”

Waylorn Wyvernsbane never makes an appearance in this version of the module.

There’s additional explanation in regards to Alhana’s burial of her father. It was his dying wish, but Silvanesti custom believes that only evil beings bury their dead. She conducts the ritual anyway, which horrifies some Silvanesti but they do not prevent this. He is buried underneath a dying tree, and there’s a rather touching post-adventure scene where Alhana talks to the PCs of the good things that her father did in life and gives a speech at his funeral. The dying tree under which Lorac is buried starts to bloom to life.

“My father gave his body to the land so that Silvanesti might begin to heal,” Alhana says. “Whatever his trespasses, he did what he did for Silvanesti, and now—”

The crowd of elves gasps collectively, and all of them point to the grave behind her. She turns, and as the assembled heroes and characters watch, a tree near Lorac’s grave suddenly begins to straighten itself. The gashes in its bark close, and its leaves return to the vibrant green color they once had. It sways in the gentle wind, a splendid contrast to the black desolation of the forest around it.

“It lives,” Alhana says to the assembled elves, a tear of joy trickling down her cheek.

DIVERGENCE: After freeing Silvanesti from the Dragon Orb’s nightmare, the PCs have several options. Alhana will give them a letter of writ to present to the leader of the Silvanesti elves in exile, along with various documents of what she learned about the Dragonarmies. Alternatively, they can carry a message to Serinda Elderwood, a sailor and member of the Khurish resistance movement in Port Balifor. Finally, the PCs may also be tasked by Alhana with making contact with Ladine in Palanthas to learn if her message in securing aid with the Empire of Ergoth was successful or not. If Ladine was the one to bring the PCs to Silvanesti, she would suggest traveling to meet the Solamnic Knights at Castle Eastwatch. Regardless of their intentions, Alhana will inform them that obtaining a ship in Flotsam is the surest means of sailing to western Ansalon.

Dragons of Faith: Hoo boy, this got a major cut. The naval travel around the Blood Sea and the underwater ruins of Istar are completely excised in favor of land bound adventures aiding local resistance movements against the Dragonarmies. Kronn and Serinda are not found on the open road or engaged in combat, but instead are performers at a local tavern; PCs who put in a good word from Alhana or some other notable anti-Dragonarmy figure will earn their trust. Otherwise the patrons may start a bar fight to protect their favorite singer.

This portion of the adventure is actually rather light on content and open-ended. Several suggestions are made for how PCs can help the resistance, such as breaking into Port Balifor’s safehouse and replacing the steel coins with magically-disguised copper ones to turn much of the soldiers against the Dragonarmy when they realize they’ve been ‘cheated.’ Ones which directly lead into other adventures involve breaking into a local Highmaster or Highlord’s office and finding sensitive intelligence. Said intelligence can point to an unnamed magical project conducted in Sanction, or the Dark Queen’s return through the portal in Neraka.

Sevil Draanim Reev, or “Verminaard Lives” backwards, has a greater role to play in this version of the Chronicles. He still harbors some loyalty to Takhisis and seeks to covertly sabotage the PCs’ efforts. He will even accompany them or track them down to Neraka in hopes of proving his loyalty to Takhisis and Ariakas. There’s a bit of conflicting interests, as the Silver Fox and his rebels prefer Lord Toede as Flotsam’s ruler due to his incompetence, but Verminaard loathes the hobgoblin and puts much of the blame of his plots in Thorbadin and Abanasinian on his shoulders. He thus wants to depose him, and if the PCs side with Verminaard on this issue they will earn the enmity of the rebels.

There’s no Berem or Green Gemstone Man in this adventure at all, so the whole Kitiara scrying upon him and chasing him across the sea does not happen here. In fact, it is possible that if the PCs get captured and enslaved by minotaurs on the Blood Sea, then Kitiara may secure their release provided that they swear allegiance to the Dragon Empire.

DIVERGENCE: If Feal-Thas was killed, then Toede is now the White Dragon Highlord. He will receive summons to attend the Dark Queen’s arrival in the Dragon Empire’s capital. If the PCs are disguised as Dragonarmy soldiers or ostensibly accepted Kitiara’s offer, then they may march with a column to Neraka. A more standard route may involve departing Flotsam by ship to head to Palanthas and thus connect with the Winter arc of adventures if not performed yet. During that time they can also make a stop in Kalaman which may be under Dragonarmy occupation if the Battle of the High Clerist’s Tower has not been successful or undertaken yet.

Dragons of Truth: Haha, this is just a single optional encounter for the PCs while they’re traveling in the heart of the Dragon Empire. It is not even a proper dungeon or fight: the PCs find a hidden temple and meet Fizban, who being Paladine in disguise does the normal “divine inspiration” speech and grants them their blessings. Just like the resolution in Silvanesti, this version of the Chronicles has a pre-set ending instead of one randomly determined: a PC must cross the portal into the Abyss while wielding a Dragonlance to prevent Takhisis from entering into the world and thus sacrifice their life while doing so.

But instead of focusing on a dungeon crawl, the section on Kalaman gets a much larger emphasis. In fact, its detail is clear in the inspiration for the 3rd Edition conversion. The chapter of Kalaman is mostly a city-based overview with two entries detailing it based on whether it is under Solamnic or Dragonarmy occupation. If the latter, there’s discussion of enemy troop positions and how the Whitestone forces and their dragon allies plan to retake the city.

There’s a new encounter based off of a scene from the books. In the novels, Kitiara kidnapped Laurana by pretending to have Tanis as a hostage and offered to release him in exchange for her second-in-command, Bakaris, who is a prisoner of war. In this optional encounter Kitiara may use either a fake or genuine hostage to get Laurana or a high-ranking NPC to attend a prisoner swap in a grove outside the city. It’s quite clearly a trap, one which the PCs can talk the commander out of potentially. Kitiara will have bozak draconians accompany her, but Lord Soth and her dragon mount Khellendros will be hiding on stand-by.

We also learn through an encounter that elf characters accompanying PCs disguised as Dragonarmy soldiers will be commanded to be taken under arrest as there are plans to enslave all of the demihuman races once Takhisis manifests in Krynn. I don’t know if by demihuman they mean all nonhumans or just the “good-aligned” PCs races like dwarves and gnomes, but if the former this seems really stupid considering the large amount of monsters working for the Dragonarmies. That’s just asking for a civil war!

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Fun Fact: A fair amount of official artwork for Emperor Ariakas has him getting pwned by Tanis or another Hero of the Lance. It was even the cover of the 1st Edition Dragonlance Adventures sourcebook!

Dragons Triumph: So there’s not as much stuff to report in terms of differences; there’s many similarities to the original module, save that instead of 6 random endings the one where a PC must sacrifice themselves is the default. I feel that this is the most dramatically appropriate: one, it is an ending which has a proper “final battle.” Two, it is not mandatory for an NPC like Fizban or Berem to be the decider of the fate of Krynn.

The major changes here are that there’s a small optional encounter where the PCs can learn of Ariakas’ son hidden beneath one of the churches, which is a clear cameo to the Dragons of Summer Flame and Fifth Age novels which were being published at the time. Additionally, it is possible that Kitiara may inform the PCs of Emperor Ariakas’ defenses if she believes that the PCs (Tanis especially) are sympathetic to her cause. Like in the novels he is protected by a series of defensive magics, and she informs the spellcasters in the party to prepare Dispel Magic spells for such an event.

Additionally, Sevil/Verminaard will attempt to get the PCs arrested and eventually show up during the final scene to dramatically reveal himself. Firestorm can also be encountered here, hoping to watch the carnage and kill Ariakas and a Highlord or two once the naughty word hits the fan. But will not be helpful to any plans the PCs might have or actually show up during the final battle. Firestorm still wants Takhisis to come into the world, but isn’t fond of the fact that the Dragon Emperor and Highlords are humanoids and not actual dragons. The adventure even has dialogue options if a PC flirts with Firestorm in her human form, which is...creepy, to say the least given my outline of her in Sanction.

The final battle which takes place in the big audience chamber is more scripted and has a build-up, with the PCs possibly in disguise and may or may not be accompanying Kitiara. Emperor Ariakas has six layers of unnamed abjuration spells which automatically block any attack or hostile effect made against him. They can be turned off with Dispel Magic or once they absorb six attacks.

There’s a scripted event where Verminaard will show up as a PC is about to strike Ariakas, dispel his abjurations, or take his Crown. Verminaard, with the aid of Kitiara’s second in command Ettel, will take Goldmoon/Elistan or a cleric PC hostage at knifepoint and dramatically reveal who he is. When combat does erupt, it is a very chaotic scene of events. Kitiara will be revealed as a traitor via Takhisis’ telepathy, and her and her Blue Dragonarmy forces (save Ettel) will fight against the others as well as Lord Soth. The Black and Green Dragon Highlords, Lucien and Salah-Khan, will try to prevent any PCs from approaching the portal, while Toede if Highlord will cower behind cover. If Feal-Thas is still White Dragon Highlord, he will attack any elf characters present regardless of the situation; his hatred against his own race is such that he’ll continue doing this even if the portal’s disabled and the entire temple starts collapsing. Lord Soth will seek to kill Kitiara and claim her soul.

Another scripted event will occur once Ariakas dies: Kitiara will seize his Crown of Power and force all present to bow down to her. Each PC has 2 opportunities to make a successful saving throw to avoid mental domination, although Lord Soth may inadvertently save them as he comes for her, at which point she’ll plead for Tanis or another appropriate PC (such as Caramon or Raistlin) to either save her or kill her before Soth does to spare her an eternity of torment.

A Dragonlance-wielding PC must make 2 checks: a saving throw vs death magic to overcome the portal’s enchantments, and then a Strength check to push through the extraplanar membrane separating Krynn from the Abyss.

If the PCs fail in keeping out Takhisis, then Verminaard if still alive will become her chosen and instantly become a 25th-level Cleric, while Kitiara and all of her loyalists will burst into flames and die. Her five dragon consorts accompany her through said portal and eventually take control of each chromatic clan. The metallic dragons will be slaughtered down to the last, and all of Ansalon and eventually all of Krynn will be united under the Dragon Empire.

If the Dragonlance-wielding PC successfully passes through the portal, they will vanish along with the portal, and the Temple of Neraka will violently crumble and eventually explode. Surviving party members who make it out will have one final scene where Fizban congratulates them on a job well done.

Finally, six hours after the Queen was forced back, as the first rays of dawn fall upon Neraka, the Temple of Takhisis explodes.Moments before the explosion, Fizban appears seemingly out of nowhere, next to the heroes. “That was something, wasn’t it?” he says. “Nothing says ‘welcome to a brighter day’ like thwarting the plans of an Evil goddess.”

Whatever reaction the party has to his appearance, he says, “You have all fulfilled the part you had to play in this drama. I set the stage, but you wrote the script and performed it brilliantly. You have restored the balance to Krynn. The pendulum once again swings freely.” He tips his hat at the party. “We will meet again,my friends. Same reality, different story. Same story, different reality.We will meet again.”

The Temple explodes, casting flaming shards high into the air and causing even the bravest hero to reflexively duck.When they straighten themselves, Fizban has vanished again. But, overhead, the black gap that opened in the sky as the heroes fled Solace has closed: Paladine and Takhisis have returned to the heavens above Krynn where they once again watch each other warily, one always vigilantly keeping the other from gaining too much power in the mortal world.

That more or less concludes the 15th Anniversary Edition, and thus my final piece of addendums to PurpleXVI’s review of the original DL Series. I have to give mad respect to the writers for this version. They made the original adventure much less railroady and made it more open world. There are some cases where this isn’t ideal, notably 2nd Edition’s “you must be this level to play” which can screw up encounters if the PCs end up advancing too quickly. It is theoretically possible to skip over large portions of adventures and end up in Neraka without experiencing the most iconic moments of the modules. But all in all, it’s a damn shame that this version has not gotten enough publicity. Released in 1999, it would soon become obsolete in a mere year when 3rd Edition D&D hit store shelves. The 2006 conversion of the modules by Sovereign Press/Margaret Weis Productions are more faithful to the 1984 series than this one. But even then, some events, encounters, and NPCs have been borrowed from this for the D20 variant, which I do appreciate.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
A very impressive overview of this oft-overlooked product! I picked this up back when it came out, and remember pouring over it at the time, as it was my first encounter with the Chronicles in playable form, as opposed to the novels. Kudos to you for covering it here.

Ladine Dralathalas (a Silvanesti elf who is a new DMPC in this version only) will come to the PCs and try to get them to visit Sanction or Silvanesti respectively.

While new to this sequence of events, it's worth noting that Ladine Dralathalas is found in both Heroes of Defiance and The Sylvan Veil, both of which predate this adventure, albeit not by much. (Note my use of affiliate links, here).
 


Libertad

Adventurer
A very impressive overview of this oft-overlooked product! I picked this up back when it came out, and remember pouring over it at the time, as it was my first encounter with the Chronicles in playable form, as opposed to the novels. Kudos to you for covering it here.



While new to this sequence of events, it's worth noting that Ladine Dralathalas is found in both Heroes of Defiance and The Sylvan Veil, both of which predate this adventure, albeit not by much. (Note my use of affiliate links, here).

Always appreciate positive reinforcement. :)

That's an interesting development re: Ladine. I do feel kind of sad that we haven't had a Dragonlance product or novel since 2010. I do get that there's a lot of criticisms people have with it but one could find similar problems in other big D&D settings (minus the whole "short comic relief races" trio").
 

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