Dragonlance Dragonlance - Dragons of Despair alternate start


No rule is inviolate
Two things to accomplish with this post.

(1) Share an idea for any DL enthusiasts and
(2) seek out ideas to convert spell slots to abilities for divine characters who don't get their powers to start the game but should be able to do something.

DLE1, Dragons of Despair, is an AD&D adventure hailed as great by some and derided as a pure railroad by others. The original "start" was to assume book characters and play out your favorite novel, wherein you meet your pals outside town after 5 years of searching for the Old Gods because no real clerics exist, find out evil empire bad guys who are invading soon are looking desperately for a "blue crystal staff," and thru zero efforts of your own, are handed it and through more zero efforts, told where to take it to start saving the world.

So, I read a few blogs about DMs who wished they'd done something different, and started thinking, let's open this up. The adventure has this awesome big hex map, and it doesn't get used at all because you're told exactly where to go.

Session 0: Since the evil empire already has the Force, er clerical power, PCs venture to one of their big cities in search of the Old Gods and catch a big show of power. It's all roleplay at this point and a chance to see and interact with some future NPCs and villains. Maybe they enlist, get recruited for their knowledge of the area the evil empire is about to invade, flee home after their ship is commandeered, get enslaved after trying to start a revolt. Possibilities are varied, but they all lead to the knowledge evil empire wants to find this staff, and it's somewhere on the PCs home peninsula. They don't want to spook the bearer and are sending in agents rather than big armies to start. Maybe they promise not to burn your village if you're the lucky one who finds it, quite a dilemma. So, hexploration.

During this time, in this setting, no good guys get divine powers until either (1) they get their hands on the staff themselves, which becomes a conduit to their god and opens their powers, or (2) it's put back where it belongs and opens it up for all PCs.

So, sounds like it'll stink to play a Paladin, Ranger, Cleric, or Bard (they're divine in this setting for my game). You're gimped from day 1. Anyone who wants to be a cleric has to make sacrifices. Isn't that how it should be?

I like the idea, however, of allowing spell slots to be sacrificed for combat maneuvers (level up 5E does it for paladins), just not sure how to translate it to any other class till they devote themselves to spells. So, that's my brainstorm, replacement powers to make Divine classes manageable to play until they get their mojo, which may not be till levels 2 or 3 if the PCs really fart around the map.

Also although "no evil characters" is in play, what do I do, or should I do, if the PCs opt for "let's turn the staff over to the bad guys and save our village." It's basically game over man at that point. Evil eliminates knowledge of the good gods and no other divine magic returns to the world. Or is there another way?

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To be honest, I feel turning the staff in to save your village is a fairly realistic response. I don't know that it should be viewed as a 'fail'. I mean, realistically, they're protecting the attachment they have the most affinity for - their town.

Maybe they see their town be saved... only for it to become a work-camp. For some reason, I'm picturing a lot of what went on during the documentary Red Dawn (the first one with Swayze and Charlie Sheen....). I don't know. It seems like this approach really takes it off the rails and into a new direction


Another option might be to allow replacement levels. It was an older 3e idea where, as you leveled your character up, you could retroactively replace one level with another class. So, you start as a 1st level fighter (say), but, at third level (presuming the characters now have access to divine power) would become a level 2/1 (divine class/fighter) By fourth level (the third level up), you would completely replace your original class with your new divine class.

Might mean that you're a slightly weaker cleric (or whatever) to start out with, but, it shouldn't make too much difference. And it does mean that the transition to fully divine class is gradual enough to seem natural.

Or simply allow the clerics their spells but no magical healing spells works until the disks are recovered.
Prevent bard and artificer as well as any other character subclass that can heal will not be able to use magical healing.
Anything related to Hit Points, Cures, Restoration or Poison Removal should simply not work at all.

Limit clerical spells to 1st and 2nd level as faith alone can give spells. But again, use the above. This way, clerics are still relevant but will not heal.
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No rule is inviolate
For some reason, I'm picturing a lot of what went on during the documentary Red Dawn (the first one with Swayze and Charlie Sheen....).
That might be a novel approach to it all.

Alternately they might keep the staff and seek to freedom fight anyways. While they can't realistically win (when a flight of dragons can simply raze the troublesome area like long-range bombers), they could keep resources trapped to this zone for a bit and perhaps be recruited by bigger resistance powers to get to Xak Tsaroth and recover something that could help win the war.

you could retroactively replace one level with another class.
Simpler solution than coming up with replacement powers. Player wants to be a Cleric but until something changes, they're a Fighter or Rogue, etc.



Simpler solution than coming up with replacement powers. Player wants to be a Cleric but until something changes, they're a Fighter or Rogue, etc.
Exactly. I'm a big fan of keeping it simple. And, I always thought the "Replacement Levels" rules in 3e were a pretty cool idea for transitioning characters from one concept to another.

If you can find it, Monte Cook put out a book 'Requiem for a God'. While it primarily deals with a god's death and the after effects, it does also posit some options for what a cleric looks like without power from a divine source.
One point it makes is a cleric without spells still generally has decent HP, decent armor and can usually decently fight. I do like the option of swapping out levels as they go, a 1:1 trade, as opposed to 'I go from fighter 6 to paladin 6/etc'


Was this intentional?
Not the original author, but I believe the answer is yes.

If you watch the original Red Dawn it is framed as a documentary/retrospective on a historical event.

Yes, in a cheesy 80s way, but the Jennifer Gray character (if I have my characters right) is supposed to be narrating everything.

Especially obvious in the epilogue, but also part of the intro.

Cheers :)

In my game the order of the seekers discovered the psionic powers and the primal magic (druids and rangers) still work. Some knights also discovered the secret of (ki) martial maneuvers (crusader class from "Tome of Battle: Book of the nine Swords").

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