For a 3rd party publishing company, Sovereign Press did quite well in producing large books with high production values. In its 4 years it made 3 map packs, 3 era/setting companion books, a Bestiary and a Revised update as part of its own print run, a 3-book conversion of the original AD&D Dragonlance Modules, a D20 adventure path trilogy of its own making, an obligatory “Races of Ansalon” race sourcebook, 3 class-based sourcebooks drawing from popular setting archetypes, and a Lost Leaves from the Last Home which was full of in-character journals, poems, and recipes with real-world cooking instructions. With the exception of the map packs each book was a lengthy tome, easily reaching 160 pages and a few over 300.
But all good times must come to an end, and soon the company would lose its publishing license with Wizards of the Coast. So for their final book, they wanted to focus on that most iconic of creatures that made up half the name of both D&D and Dragonlance.
Dragons of Krynn is a rather notable book in that it breaks from the format of its predecessors. It has chapters, but each of the chapters are grouped as their own Books which cover their own broad subject matter. Book One focuses on the “true dragon” clans, but also just as important are Books Two and Three, which go into detail on draconians, dragonspawn, and the reptilian races with draconic connections such as lizardfolk, kobolds, wyverns, etc. As the draconians were oddly not present in the older Races of Ansalon sourcebook, Dragons of Krynn also serves as 3rd Edition Dragonlance’s Draconian Sourcebook.
Finally, there are eight in-character sidebars penned by Palanthian scholars discussing notes on all things draconic, ranging from innovations in warfare with the presence of dragons on the battlefield to instructions for humans saddled with the unenviable task of raising an orphaned true dragon wyrmling. In reality the authors of said sidebars include a mixture of adventure writers and novelists who weighed in to give their own personal touches.
Book 1, Clans of the Dragon
Chapter 1: True Dragons
Book One, unsurprisingly, focuses on the true dragons of Ansalon. Encompassing all of the dragon monsters with age categories, they are the first children of the gods of light and darkness. We have several Origin Myths regarding dragons based on the various mortal races and cultures; the dragons themselves refuse to confirm or deny anything, so the oldest records are more folkloric than factual. Each origin story uses the races’ cultural name for specific gods, but I’m using the universal ones for ease of reference.
The dwarves assert that the ten clans of dragons were fashioned by Reorx, god of the forge. The first five were fashioned from five metals given to him by Takhisis for their bodies, and their spirits wrought from Chaos: said dragons were later corrupted by her, and so he then made five for Paladine wrought of untarnished metals.
The elves claim that the gods sought to compose a Song after the creation of Krynn to celebrate their finished task, and the dragons were born to serve as a chorus. Takhisis added five additional verses which were sung by half of the dragons and ended up corrupting them due to the discordant lyrics.
The gnomes approach this query as a taxonomic study rather than a folkloric origin story. The Committee for the Establishment of Consensus in the Matter of the Origin of Draconic Species theorizes that there were a small group of ur-dragon life forms that existed before the Graygem’s warping of Krynn. They in essence serve as an evolutionary root for all of the “true” dragon clans and their cousins. In spite of centuries of study the Ur-Dragon Theory is “Unverified but Plausible,” and the various non-gnomish scholarly orders do not put much weight in it.
The kender’s origin story is structured more as a silly children’s tale: when Reorx created the world he kept a journal as to how he made all of the myriad life forms and geological features. But he misplaced the journal and asked the gods in helping him find it. The tale involves several of the gods going into Krynn’s remote reaches, looking under rocks, grabbing their hands into clouds, or digging through sand where they inexplicably find a dragon of one of the ten clans. Every time they ask them if they saw Reorx’s journal, and every dragon’s answer is “nope.” Reorx was sad that his journal could not be found (it was later found in his own pocket), but on the other hand his search helped the gods find the dragons!
The ogres assert that before civilization the gods made war in the sky. Takhisis sought to learn from Reorx the secrets of fire and stone to achieve victory and fashioned five serpents from a volcano. Paladine was afraid of what she had wrought, and begged for Reorx to teach him as well. So five serpents made of metal were made, but they were not as strong as Takhisis’ which forced Paladine to plead for an end to the war. She asked for something in return, and Paladine gave her the mountains as her own. Which in turn would become the homeland of the ogres.
The book only details two human cultures’ origin stories, the Khur (Dragonlance’s Arab equivalent) and the Solamnics (feudal Germanics with KNIGHTS). The Khur say that dragons were wrought from the bodies of genies, the first servants of the gods, to end a war among their. The dragons forced the genies to retire to the elemental realms after making a pact between their races.
Solamnia asserts that the world of Krynn was given to mortals by the gods, and the animals in turn would be ruled by the Dragons who were born of the world itself and its elements. Paladine and Takhisis both sought to court the dragons for their own purposes, causing the ten clans to abandon their animal charges who then became like simple beasts. The High God was displeased over this violation of the order. Gilean, acting as mediator, said that Paladine and Takhisis’ bonds with their dragons would remain as long as they remained gods, while Chislev the goddess of nature would assume mastery of all animals. The Dragons then became creatures of Conscience.
As for the dragons themselves...they refuse to speak of any origin or theories of their own among non-dragons.
I like these myths. Each of them shares just enough commonality to piece together an inkling of a draconic origin story while also reflecting the worldviews of the various people of Krynn.
A Brief History
This Ansalonian-centric section looks over the history of dragonkind and their most famous members as well as significant contributions to the continent. Sadly, it almost entirely focuses on major wars.
Prominent sages believe that the chromatic and metallic clans once warred upon each other before the creation of the mortal races, and designated names to famed champions among their kind who came to represent their clan: Akis the White, Arkan the Blue, etc. Sages also believe that the dragons are the literal children of their respective patron deities, and their birthplace is somewhere within the two major mountain ranges on Ansalon. At this time the races’ handling of arcane magic was still in its infancy and would not be developed in an appreciable manner until the breaking of the Graygem. Dragonkind had closer ties to the two-legged races, either living among them as relative equals or dominating them like the chromatics did.
The First Dragon War happened when a red dragon warlord by the name of Crematia assassinated three of the five metallic clan leaders. The good dragons petitioned aid from the mortal races of Krynn to counter Crematia’s Ogre armies. Silvanos, the later founder of the first elven nation, aided the dragons with this and were bestowed with five dragon stones to capture the souls of the chromatic dragons. The forces of Good won, and almost all of the chromatic dragons were slain or put into soulless slumber. Eventually the exiled Crematia would manipulate the dwarves into accidentally unearthing the now-buried dragon stones, her son taking over the mantle of warlord and calling upon Takhisis’ aid.
The Second Dragon War began when the reawakened chromatic survivors assaulted the elven nation of Silvanesti. This time the elves were pushed into a seemingly unwinnable situation, and three elven sorcerers conducted an arcane ritual with which they knew little about given the newness of the knowledge of spells. The chromatic dragon army was wiped out, but so was much of Silvanesti’s landscape. The three Gods of Magic teleported the sorcerers into a hidden citadel in order to teach them how to master their powers, and the metallic dragons dedicated the next few centuries to helping the humanoid races rebuild society.
The Third Dragon War* was the most famous one of its kind in Ansalonian history and folklore when it comes to dragons. Takhisis once again sought to take over the world, but this time the mortal races had raised veritable civilizations of their own: knights, wizards, empires, and all that good stuff were present for a properly-epic fantasy feel. It was during this time that a humble Knight of Solamnia by the name of Huma Dragonbane would go on a quest with his wizard companion and other friends. Eventually he would come to wield the mighty Dragonlance, a new and unknown weapon at the time, to fight Takhisis herself. This mere mortal defeated a god and forced her to withdraw her power from Krynn along with her chromatic minions via an Oath. This Oath also bound the metallic dragons due to the Balance, and they went into a self-imposed exile to the distant Dragon Isles. Dragons then became so rare as to be mythical on Ansalon at this time, the legacy of Huma and the Dragonlances passing into the annals of myth and legend.
*Which amusingly is referred to dragonkind as the Human War due to most nations involved being human and whose warriors and leaders were the major focus of said war.
The Age of Despair and War of the Lance was also a monumental time, for it marked the return of dragons to Ansalon. After the collapse of the Empire of Istar and the departure of the gods from the world, Takhisis enacted a series of secret plans to regain influence in the mortal realm. By stealing the metallic dragon eggs while they slept, she blackmailed them into noninterference while her mortal champions raised a Dragon Empire in her name. With the aid of divine magic, draconic might, and having the only standing army of significance on the continent, they cut a bloody swath across Ansalon. It was the actions of a few good friends who would later become known as the Heroes of the Lance who would save Krynn from evil: they not only rediscovered divine magic, but also the forge of the legendary Dragonlances as well as the secret location of the metallic dragon eggs. They had help from others, such as the silver dragon D’argent who violated her peoples’ oath of noninterference to subtly supply aid in regards to the latter two actions. Many of the most famous dragons in recent memory would be huge players in this war, and the skies over major battlefields were full of hundreds of dragons and their mounted riders clashing across the horizon.
After Takhisis’ defeat yet again, the dragons would become regular fixtures in the lives of mortals, helping their respective sides rebuild or conquer territory. The Chaos War would bring the deaths of dragons on both sides, but the most catastrophic time was yet to come. When Takhisis stole the world to make herself the One God of Krynn, she passed by alien realms in the Ethereal Sea. And one such realm was home to titanic dragons, a half-dozen of which made their way to Krynn. Their sheer size and ability to reshape the land itself would cause them to be dubbed the Dragon Overlords, and their possession of strange magical items known as skull totems let them grow even more powerful with the skulls of slain dragons. The Overlords took over wide swathes of the continent and expended much of their power and resources in hunting down and killing as many dragons as possible. This act of genocide would later become known as the Dragon Purge. Add to this the semi-related War of Souls where Takhisis’ new faith clashed against the Overlords and all those who did not bow before her, and almost the entire draconic race was wiped off the face of Krynn.
Today, the dragons are rarer than ever. Gone are the days where they numbered hundreds in armies. Gone are the days where their respective progenitor deities of Paladine and Takhisis stood watch over Creation. Such drastic changes have left their mark on each and every one of them, and how they choose to spend their lives in this new Age of Mortals varies wildly by both clan and individual.
The Nature of Dragons
This section is far more brief than the historical entries. It covers some universal standards among true dragons, including their physiological abilities along with some new Krynn-specific things: an internal organ near their heart and lungs is known as a draconis fundamentum which is as unique to a dragon as a fingerprint is to a human. It powers all of their inherent abilities, from magic to breath weapons to flight. Dragonlances are intentionally constructed to cause internal harm to this body part even if it does not touch the organ itself in a strike.
Dragonlance’s magic is more restrictive than that of other settings: magic is generally divided into two varieties, either being from that of the gods or ambient energy drawn from the world itself. Even wizardry, which is reliant upon the phases of the moons, failed to work when Takhisis stole the world, and sorcery and mysticism only came in practice among the non-draconian mortal races when the Graygem broke and released Chaos into the world.
Dragons are a unique case: their magic is inherent to their being, requiring neither Chaos, the moons, nor the gods to wield. It is technically ambient magic not unlike primal sorcery but can be wielded regardless of the era. Dragons are capable of learning wizardry or even becoming clerics, although such circumstances are rare: dragons can replicate much of clerical magic via their own powers even if they are otherwise devout. Which in 3rd Edition terms explains how dragons can cast some cleric spells as sorcerer spells!
Draconic names have their own cultural traditions. All dragons have a true name they choose for themselves shortly after birth and are kept a close secret from non-dragons. They acquire other names with age, often adopted when taking mortal guises or from titles and important life events. When choosing names for non-Draconic languages they often pick ones reflective of their clan or appearance, such as the red dragon Flamestrike or the gold dragon Pyrite who were both present in the original novels and modules.
As for the Draconic language, it is the oldest spoken tongue in Krynn, and barring shorter-lived speakers such as kobolds does not much in the way of drastic dialect changes over time. Draconic runes written 3,000 years ago are just as easily read to a dragon in the current Age as the English language in the 1960s would be to a modern speaker. It has been learned by various non-reptilian civilizations over millennia, and many empires and churches adopted it as a sort of lingua franca for their holy books or borrowing terms to use in legal documents and records. The human language Nerakese, which ironically was the tongue of the region which served as the Dragon Empire’s first territory, has common word roots in Draconic.
The Dragons of Taladas
Our final entry for this prologue chapter covers the othlorx (Draconic for “Uninvolved), the members of the ten dragon clans on Taladas who refused to heed the call of their brethren during the War of the Lance and chose to stay ‘neutral’ in said conflict. Their Ansalonian counterparts disapprove of this choice and often cause them to be disrespected (in the case of the metallics) or outright attacked (in the case of the chromatics) by their brethren. Generally speaking, their reasons for doing so vary by clan, but even this is not an absolute: some had prior conditions on Taladas which they could not leave behind, while some found themselves unable to relate to their Ansalonian clanmates on a cultural level anymore. In the case of the chromatics, some did not trust Takhisis’ promises of power, figuring that said war was unimportant in the grand scheme of things, or having seen her last big failures in the prior Dragon Wars decided that working for her was a losing bet. Takhisis was very unpleased with the chromatic othlorx and imposed various curses on them based upon their clans: greens became sterile, blues are physically incapable of going against a promise or commitment, etc.
The exception among the clans is that there are no gold othlorx: they are the most loyal to Paladine, and those few who are still in Taladas remain there due to their now-mortal gods’ orders.
We have one scholarly for this prologue chapter: one tells of a famed dragon by the name of Wyrmfather who was forged by Sargonnas to have the strengths of all ten clans. He was strong enough even to battle the gods themselves before Kiri-Jolith triumphed over him and embedded him deep in the mountains. It is said that his body after death became the substance known as dragonmetal, from which all Dragonlances are forged.
Ending this chapter is a house rule for draconic breath weapons. Back in 1st Edition D&D when the original modules were written, dragons did not have immunity to the energy types of their breath weapons and so those of the same clan could damage each other in combat this way. Breath-on-breath action was a common element in both the novels and modules, but sadly cannot be replicated in the 3rd Edition rules due to immunity to their related elemental type. Instead, this variant rule grants dragons their typical energy immunities, but when against breath weapons of that specific energy type they lose this immunity and gain Improved Evasion instea: half damage on a failed save, no damage on a successful one. Overall I think it’s a good rule: dragons’ Reflex saves are their worst one and their breath weapons can still deal a lot of damage. Perhaps not as much as a full attack with their natural weapons in melee, but can be good if there’s some distance between two or more serpentine battlers.
Thoughts So Far: This chapter has a strong start. I liked the creation myths as well as the brief touching on non-Ansalonian affairs. Taladas never got a proper update to 3rd Edition, so there isn’t much one can use from this book to run a game on said continent, but it is an indication of how this sourcebook sought to be different from the others. I am not exactly a fan of how virtually all of the history section focuses on a few major wars; although perhaps standard for the setting, it makes dragons feel vestigial in the grand scheme of things rather than capable beings who forged civilizations alongside the humans, elves, and other races. I understand that there was talk of non-warfare activities, but said information was an afterthought.
Join us next time as we cover Chapter 2: Clans of Color!