Krynn Returns: A Preview of Dragonlance

WotC is experimenting as it brings the world of Krynn and the classic Dragonlance setting to 5th Edition. Those experiments take a few different forms.

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The Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen Combo Bundle​

The first is one that fans have been clamoring for—bundles that combine the physical and digital versions of a book. Earlier this year, WotC purchased D&D Beyond, which has been producing digital content for D&D. Now the much-requested bundles are debuting with Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen, and the digital book will unlock on November 22 for those who pre-order the bundle, two weeks earlier than the official release date.

The other experiment is pairing the RPG adventure with a board game. Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn can be played alone or in combination with the RPG, which similarly can stand independent of the board game. Why create two different games for one story?

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Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen​

“[Dragonlance] is a war adventure. Characters will find themselves flung into battle,” said F. Wes Schneider, lead designer for DL:SotDQ. The board game is one way to create that feeling of mass combat.

The D&D team created new rule subsystems for battles that are taking place in the middle of larger conflicts. When you get to the mass combat sections in DL:SotDQ it notes when you can switch to DL:WoK if you have both. If you only have DL:SotDQ, then it instructs the DM how to proceed.

Speaking of rules, DL:SotDQ uses the current 5E rule set. D&D One is still being play-tested, but Schneider emphasized again that D&D One will be fully compatible with existing D&D adventures. If you do have both DL:SotDQ and DL:WoK, what happens during the board game interludes matters. Whether players succeed or fail will affect what happens next in the RPG. “We think of these two experiences as additive to each other,” said Greg Tito, senior communications manager for WotC.

To give a sense of how it works, Schneider compared how things play out with the new rule subsystem as well as how it connects to the optional board game to the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Specifically, he referenced Eowyn fighting the Witch King: A giant battle is taking place, but the story is focusing on this one part of the battle.

The new RPG mass combat rule subsystem and board game were both made to emphasize Dragonlance's defining theme. “It's best known for its iconic war,” said Schneider. “It's caught up in this sweeping conflict called the War of the Lance, where the forces of Takhisis, the evil dragon queen, are sweeping across a world that has already been reeling from a planet-spanning apocalypse and now they find themselves just as they're starting to emerge back into a new era, these oncoming dragon armies and forces of this evil queen.”

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In DL:SotDQ a new group of heroes will gather in a new area of the setting. Characters find themselves embroiled in this massive, war and they have the opportunity to shape this conflict. DL:SotDQ begins in the fishing village of Vogler. The war hasn't yet begun. No one knows about the dragon armies.

One of the first NPCs the players will meet is Darrett Highwater, the squire of a knight who has been sent to get breakfast. Highwater is returning with breakfast handpies as he meets the players. They will continue to meet Highwater over the course of the adventure as the war escalates.

But before that war starts, the players get to enjoy the Kingfisher Festival in the lovely town of Vogler. They can compete in a fishing style mini game against Mayor Raven Uth. Players should genuinely enjoy their time in Vogler—and then the first glimmers of war appear. Rumors emerge that don't quite make sense. Ogres mercenaries begin to raid. Then Vogler becomes the first stop for an incursion by the dragon army.
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Because Vogler is unprepared for war it's up to the PCs to decide what to do. Can they create defenses in time? Gather enough forces to defend it? Or hold off the dragon army until the citizens can evacuate to the fortified city of Kalaman? Schneider said that a large part of the adventure took inspiration from real-world history like the evacuation of Dunkirk during WWII.

But Dragonlance has a long history that includes novels, adventure modules, and video games so a common question is when does DL:SotDQ take place? For that, Schneider had two answers. “A lot of the timeline for this is very vague,” said Schneider. “The story of your Krynn and of this Dragonlance setting is very much up to DMs and players to define.”

So DMs can modify DL:SotDQ as they see fit and place it in whatever time period they choose. “But were we [the D&D team] to place this somewhere,” Schneider continued, “literally this story would actually take place before a lot of the novels, before a lot of the other stories of the Heroes of the Lance... by several months to several years.”

Schneider continued to explain that Krynn is a big planet, and compared how this particular story works to Star Wars in that there's a whole universe of stories to tell. Those stories include everything from Rogue One to the saga, The Mandalorian to The Book of Boba Fett. “Where's Luke and Leia?,” continued Schneider as he expanded on the analogy. “They're out there. They're doing their own thing, but we're focused over here on this story.”

Because so much material already exists, don't expect a repeat of in-depth world building. Instead Schneider compared DL:SotDQ to how Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden introduced the Ten Towns. “A lot of the setting is revealed through play and adventure,” said Schneider

DL:SotDQ also includes three short prelude adventures that will allow new players to learn more about the world of Krynn and key story elements of it. Those include evidence that the deities are returning to the world, draconians, and learning about the mages of high sorcery. A gazetteer also helps to fill in essential material.

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While the threats in DL:SotDQ are dire, some lighter moments are included. For example, the inventive tinker gnomes have invented something called “gnomeflingers” for rapid transportation. As the name indicates, it's “a catapult that fires people.” Unfortunately, landing isn't built-in. That's a difference device called a “narrycrash.”

Kender will be a playable species as usual in DL:SotDQ. A variety of dwarves are also mentioned, but gully dwarves are not.

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Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn​

Speaking of playable characters, one of the features if you have both DL:SotDQ and DL:WoK is that players can bring their characters into the board game, putting them into the field of battle. DL:WoK also comes with unpainted minis, but players can substitute their own minis if desired.

The board game's lead designers are Rob Daviau and Stephen Baker. Daviau explained that DL:WoK isn't the game most people probably expect to depict battlefield combat. “It's not a traditional wargame,” said Daviau. “You are not commanding the units. The battle is bigger than you. You can influence the battle, but the battles are happening around you. Players are doing a special mission during the battle.”

Daviau also cautioned people against opening and reading all of the game components before beginning to play. While DL:WoK is not a legacy game where some cards are destroyed, certain elements are in shrink-wrapped packages that are marked “do not open until...” so there are surprises. Instead it directs you to “use X if Y happens.”
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There are also recruit, veteran, and legendary cards. Those packs should also stay sealed until indicated. Players will start with low-level abilities and advance to the higher level ones. Because the battle is so big, players will get some different abilities in certain situations. Players will also encounter NPCs from DL:SotDQ like Darrett Highwater in DL:WoK (he gets a battlefield promotion quickly).

The board game also supports role-playing. For example, if a player or NPC gets the Shaken condition in the board game that effect can be role-played when the players resume the RPG side. What the players do in the board game absolutely makes a difference because the alliance army is almost always outnumbered. The players help to shift the focus so the alliance can survive. Daviau said they play-tested version where the players did nothing, and it affected the outcome for the alliance.

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DL:WoK is a cooperative game. Not all cards are played on your turn. If you have the right cards in your hand, you can exert influence on someone else's turn. Cards are regained through rest. The game is designed for 3-5 players so the DM can take on the role of a mercenary and play if there aren't enough players. If there are, the DM can act as a facilitator and play the NPCs. DL:WoK is challenging. It's hard for the alliance to get units back, and bad guys win ties in dice rolls. Interestingly, the game only uses d6s—no d20s.

DL:WoK starts with a sandbox opener to give the players a sense of how it works. A group of farmers need to be rescued. Vile champions will impede the players' paths. As the game progresses, the battles become more complex and bigger to simulate the feel of combat against an overwhelming dragon army.

The board game has many battlefields, and the players will need to manage many flanks. One flank will always be active to create a cinematic feel, and players will move back and forth between the battlefields so it feels epic.

Daviau expects DMs to create their own scenarios to extend DL:WoK beyond what's provided and for them to kit bash the game to handle war scenarios for any D&D or homebrew setting. If it sells well, WotC could offer future versions customized for other settings.

When a battle ends in the board game, there is an interlude to tie the RPG and board game together. Winning board game battles bring advantages to the RPG campaign. DMs are given clear instructions so it's an easy transition between the two, such as if you had a win, do X, if it's a hold, do Y, and if it was a loss, do Z. And that works both ways. For example, after a certain meeting in DL:SotDQ a certain vile commander won't appear again in the board game.

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What Makes Dragonlance Different​

While Dragonlance is a war story, the designers emphasize that the best war stories are about people coming together. War isn't fun. Vogler was a lovely community until an evil goddess ruined it. The heroes are meant to be a beacon of hope.

That war also provides a certain sense of scale that the art is designed to reinforce. For example, the art scenes are big instead of zooming in on a few characters. Rather than a single full page of art to open each chapter, DL:SotDQ opens each chapter with a two-page spread so it's more cinematic.

When asked how Dragonlance is different from Forgotten Realms or Spelljammer, Schneider said, “A lot of it is certainly thematic... [Spelljammer is] high magic, far flung, wild explorations in space, even if you're exploring a dungeon or you go and fight a dragon, you're doing that in context of wild explorations in space, and that has a theme that influences everything you do.”

“In Dragonlance,” Schneider continued, “you go to dungeons, you fight dragons, you encounter hobgoblins. You do all of that, but it's in context of war. These are the enemies of a larger invading force. There is an evil queen uniting them who plans to conquer the world. You are heroes standing against all of this happening. You will have all of the typical D&D adventures you love, but the stakes are much higher.”

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The Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen combo bundle can be pre-ordered through the WotC website for $59.94 plus shipping. D&D: Dragonlance Deluxe, containing the board game and the physical and digital versions of the book for $154.98 plus free shipping for the U.S., UK, France, and Germany. Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn by itself is $79.99.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Oddly enough, I was looking at some old DL modules last night, and in one of them they had a post-war map of Ansalon showing the state of things following the War of the Lance - the various Dragonarmies still had large areas under their control, and things had settled into a sort of Cold War state with ”bush fires” and incursions in various disputed areas across the continent as the remaining fragmented Dragonarmies searched for any and all means to get the war going again (sort of like the Nazis hunting for artifacts in the Indiana Jones series).
That’s really interesting. Do you remember which module that was?

ETA: Found something similar in the back of Dragonlance Adventures.
 
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Azzy

ᚳᚣᚾᛖᚹᚢᛚᚠ
Oddly enough, I was looking at some old DL modules last night, and in one of them they had a post-war map of Ansalon showing the state of things following the War of the Lance - the various Dragonarmies still had large areas under their control, and things had settled into a sort of Cold War state with ”bush fires” and incursions in various disputed areas across the continent as the remaining fragmented Dragonarmies searched for any and all means to get the war going again (sort of like the Nazis hunting for artifacts in the Indiana Jones series).
I remember that.
That’s really interesting. Do you remember which module that was?
In DL16: World of Krynn

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It's also in the Dragonlance Adventures book.
 


Steel_Wind

Legend
One thing this article tells me is the D&D design team has no clue what a Kingfisher is - it's a bird that the knights adopted as their symbol, not some "fishing king" award. I am starting to notice another theme in D&D adventures - fishing; at least starting in Rime, seems of late there's a fishing side trek starting to show up in every adventure...

Beyond that grump, I'm most looking forward to the board game. A little disappointed it only uses D6s, but I'm hoping the system is good and easy enough I can use it to run mass combats in my D&D games beyond Dragonlance.
SotDQ's Lead Designer, Wes Schneider, apart from being one of the four founding creative talents at Paizo who helped create their Golarion setting -- is an Adv Path geek of the 1st Order. He was a longtime DragonLance fan of the initial DL1-14 modules.

He got the gig because he asked for it. He has worked on far more complicated adventure arcs than this. DL was always in good hands the moment Wes became its Lead Designer.
 

Steel_Wind

Legend
I remember that.

In DL16: World of Krynn

View attachment 266427View attachment 266428

It's also in the Dragonlance Adventures book.
The original Mass Combat rules for 1st Ed, "Battlesystem" was released initially as an adjunct to DragonLance's War of the Lance. DL8, Dragons of War had its own rules for its war-game -- or it could be resolved (allegedly) using Battlesystem. DL9, Dragons of Deceit, also came with counters to resolve the mass combat involving the Good and Evil Dragons.

Even the title of the most recent DL novel, also titled Dragons of Deceit, points to the focus of this adventure: Solamnia and the War of the Lance.

It seems pretty clear that WotC has looked very carefully at the elements of DL they could bring forward, and what elements of the setting they could leave for fans to go back into and use as much (or as little) of it as they like. Leaving the exact timeline as to when the events of SotDQ take place was also a wise choice, and likely leaves that as the "solution" to divine healing magic. If the DM cares, the tools are there to explain it. If they don't, then hand-wave it.

I guess the part which is most germane to 5e players, how they handle the absence/return of healing magic will await release of the hardcover on Dec 6. That's the part which is going to make people unhappy, no matter what they do.
 

I thought if Hasbro wanted a D&D strategy videogame would be based in Birthright, something style Warhammer: Total War but now I start to suspect Dragonlance would be the chosen setting for a mixture of massive battles and skirmishes.
 


Steel_Wind

Legend
They literally took their clerics and went home. It's hard to claim that it was mortals who lost the knowledge when you deliberately take everyone with that knowledge away.

The knowledge was deliberately stolen from them by the gods who could have taught mortals at any time prior to Goldmoon if they really wanted them to know. :)

It's the reimagining that's the issue. There was no need for it outside of gully dwarves and perhaps kender.
You are being quite selective here in your recollections of the "knowledge of the Old Gods" in Krynn.

It is true, that was the explanation that emerges in the first few DL modules and in Dragons of Autumn Twilight. You are correct in that.

But it is also clear as the original novel series goes on, together with the raft of "canon" that emerged during DL's initial run -- that "knowledge of the Old Gods" was never lost to the Peoples of Krynn. The XXXIV Volumes of The Measure -- the laws and parables of the Knights of Solamnia, reveal the names and teachings of the Old Gods in great detail. The Elves had DIRECT knowledge of them and remember all of it. That was first-hand personal knowledge, seen with their own eyes and ears, too.

The "return of knowledge of the Old Gods" from Goldmoon's recovery of the Disks of Mishakal is a narrative and literary device where those words are used in DoAT and Dragons of Despair. It is also within the context of South-Western Ansalon, the reason for a game-rule. But in terms of the broader continent of Ansalon, it's not literally true - and never was. Not even in the early days of the setting. Not even within the original DL1-14 module material, for that matter.

So the canon isn't what you recall it to be. You have simply misremembered and allowed the words of DoAT to overcome conflicting evidence to the contrary. Which is fine - that is the way human memory generally works. The majority of fans have the same recollection as you do. That's not an accident.

It's just so happens that is not an accurate recollection of what is within the original setting itself, that's all.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You are being quite selective here in your recollections of the "knowledge of the Old Gods" in Krynn.

It is true, that was the explanation that emerges in the first few DL modules and in Dragons of Autumn Twilight. You are correct in that.

But it is also clear as the original novel series goes on, together with the raft of "canon" that emerged during DL's initial run -- that "knowledge of the Old Gods" was never lost to the Peoples of Krynn. The XXXIV Volumes of The Measure -- the laws and parables of the Knights of Solamnia, reveal the names and teachings of the Old Gods in great detail. The Elves had DIRECT knowledge of them and remember all of it. That was first-hand personal knowledge, seen with their own eyes and ears, too.
This is apples and oranges. Knowledge of the old gods isn't what left. The old gods did. Having knowledge of the old gods isn't the old gods being back. Goldmoon bringing them back is them being back.
The "return of knowledge of the Old Gods" from Goldmoon's recovery of the Disks of Mishakal is a narrative and literary device where those words are used in DoAT and Dragons of Despair. It is also within the context of South-Western Ansalon, the reason for a game-rule. But in terms of the broader continent of Ansalon, it's not literally true - and never was. Not even in the early days of the setting. Not even within the original DL1-14 module material, for that matter.
What the disks brought back was the knowledge of creating clerics and perhaps greater knowledge of the gods teachings than that which was still around. Per the Dragonlance setting clerics are what make other clerics, though a god can opt to do it directly like Mishakal did with Goldmoon.
So the canon isn't what you recall it to be.
Yes it is. The old gods(other than Takhisis) did not return until Goldmoon brought the disks back.
 

Steel_Wind

Legend
What the disks brought back was the knowledge of creating clerics and perhaps greater knowledge of the gods teachings than that which was still around.

The rule in 1st ed -- which was carried through in to 2nd and 3rd ed, was that the Disks allowed Goldmoon to pray -- there are conflicting explanations as to whether she received her Holy Symbol of Mishakal from the Disks, or from the Avatar of Mishakal via the Statue of Mishakal in the Temple. What the rules say is that the Holy Symbol of Mishakal could clone itself when its wearer invested a new cleric; the engraving representing one of the Good Old Gods would change on the holy symbol, depending on the primary god that cleric followed when invested. Elistan receives his symbol from Goldmoon, but his engraving is for Paladine, not Mishakal.

Because of the spell component rules in 1st ed, it was not possible to perform clerical magic without that holy symbol -- in DL, the holy symbol itself was a magic item that could clone itself and spread virally. But there had to be one to start. Goldmoon's symbol was "Patient Zero" in South-Western Ansalon.

That was the operative part of the game rules that applied to the Good Gods. It never applied to the Evil Gods -- and we don't have any details on how it operated regarding Neutral Gods -- a plot hole that many DL novel writers used over the years.
 
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