Dragonlance [Let's Read] Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen

Libertad

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It’s been over a decade since the last Dragonlance gaming book was published. On the tabletop front we had Dragons of Spring in 2008, while for novels we saw the revised version of the Dragonlance Trilogy in 2011. After that was an utter dearth of content, resulting in many branding Dragonlance a dead setting. After a long wait we saw the rebirth for a new era in 2022, with the Shadow of the Dragon Queen as an adventure and Dragons of Deceit as a Weis & Hickman novel.

In a way it’s understandable that Wizards neglected Dragonlance for so long. Even discounting their whole lawsuit with Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, it’s been a rather divisive setting among D&D fans in a way that many other settings are not. And even among fans there’s been a lot of concern over whether or not a revamped Dragonlance will manage to keep the spirit of the setting for any number of reasons. But overall, I’m happy to see Dragonlance getting revived, and while it does have its problems they certainly aren’t insurmountable in making good stories from it. There’s a reason it ushered in entire generations of fans from outside the tabletop hobby over several decades. Its themes of how love can bloom on the battlefield, the prominence of dragons in the world beyond just hoarders of treasure, the romantic imagery of lance-wielding knights riding upon such mighty serpents, and being the trendsetter of many D&D tropes we take for granted all cemented Dragonlance’s place as a unique setting to stand on its own.

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War Comes to Krynn

Shadow of the Dragon Queen, in line with 5th Edition’s method of operation, is primarily an adventure sourcebook but includes a good helping of setting content. But on the setting front it’s not as comprehensive as prior edition sourcebooks or what was done with Eberron: Rising From the Last War. Shadow is at once broad in scope when talking about the world and its history, but rarely going farther or more in-depth when it comes to certain eras, regions, and places. Unlike Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, a large portion of Krynnish canon is kept intact, with perhaps the most notable changes being the removal of gully dwarves and making it so that Goldmoon is not the first non-evil post-Cataclysm divine spellcaster.

This first section isn’t so much a “chapter” as a broad strokes coverage of the setting, beginning with an in-character letter from a Solamnic knight to the city of Maelgoth warning of a growing army of monsters and dragons in the east bound for Kalaman. What follows is an abbreviated overview of Krynn’s history, which is more or less left intact for those worrying about WotC blowing it to smithereens. Focus is placed on specific events from the four Ages: gods create the world from primordial chaos, the famous knight Huma Dragonbane wields the first Dragonlance to banish the evil goddess Takhisis from Krynn, the dragons retreat from the world as the theocratic Empire of Istar rises in power, Istar falls after its society grows zealous and intolerant and the Kingpriest seeks godhood for himself, the gods give many signs and take away their clerics before throwing a massive meteor at Istar, the Cataclysm marks three hundred years of the Age of Despair-

-hold on a minute!

So for those unfamiliar, the Cataclysm is one of the most controversial elements of Dragonlance. While it is an ode to old religious tales of God/the gods destroying the world in anger, such tales are reasonably dated given that killing millions of innocent people is recognized by right-thinking folks as one of the worst crimes of humanity. Given WotC’s more socially progressive ethos and revising setting lore in line with this, I am a bit surprised that they kept it in.

Even Wesley Schneider acknowledges in this video that the gods of Krynn did a horrible thing, and they spent a lot of time thinking and talking about the implications it raised for the story. So their answer was that the gods didn’t hedge all of their bets in entrusting Lord Soth with stopping the Kingpriest’s mad crusade before bringing about the apocalypse as their Plan B. Instead they had several trusted agents, but they all failed so they resorted to dropping the Divine Hammer on Istar and plunging Ansalon into an Age of Despair before turning away from the world.

The Cataclysm remains as the mark the world changed forever, turning Dragonlance into a technically post-apocalyptic setting. The architectural marvels, magical wonders, and lore of the Age of Might became lost to most, and even those who rebuilded are but shadows of what once was. Takhisis, the Dragon Queen who is known on other worlds as Tiamat,* knew that Krynn was under a cosmic power vacuum, so she plotted her return by transporting the Kingpriest’s ruined Temple of Istar into the Taman Busuk mountain range. She called on the evil dragons to come out of hiding, stealing the good dragon eggs to turn them into draconians while also blackmailing their parents from involving themselves in the upcoming war. The Dragon Armies gradually grew into an unrivaled international superpower, five military dictatorships empowered by the might of dragons and divine magic to conquer all of Eastern Ansalon.

*Her traditional title of the Dark Queen has been excised from this version of Dragonlance, and Wizards made it canon that she and Tiamat from other settings are one and the same.

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Life on Ansalon covers several setting elements useful to all characters. The languages of Ansalon are grouped into Standard and Rare categories and include much of the pre-5e languages, although Camptalk (mercenary/military jargon) and Gullytalk (gully dwarves) have been removed. Most standard languages are variant regional dialects such as Abanasinian, Ergot, and Solamnic plus the Common/Dwarvish/Elvish/Gnome/Kenderspeak, while rare languages cover Draconic/Primordial/Sylvan and most eastern Ansalonian tongues like Kothian (minotaurs) and Nerakese.

Ansalon’s calendar system is the same as ours, although we only cover the Solamnic calendar’s names for days and months.

There is one important change from prior editions: steel pieces are no longer the economic standard! Or rather, there are still bronze and steel pieces in circulation but they have the same value respectively as silver and gold pieces. The book explains this as post-Cataclysm times forced people back to the bare necessities by skyrocketing steel’s value, but over time it went back to pre-Cataclysm standards.

I’m not sure I’m buying this; steel coins are highly impractical when gold would be preferred, which was probably what led to this change. The book even acknowledges the difficulty in forging steel, so making them into coins and not tools is still a waste when softer and equally precious metals can be used.

Rumors of War covers things that PCs and the general population would know or have heard about the Dragon Armies. Most people in western Ansalon aren’t fully aware of their existence; it’s known that the nation of Khur has fallen into civil war and that various warlords are rising in prominence in the mountains of central Ansalon (Dragon Army HQ). There are rumors of said warlords using dragons in battle, but those are considered exaggerated “kender tales.”

Again, while this is in line with the original Chronicles of the Dragon Army as an unknown force that seemingly comes out of nowhere, the Heroes of the Lance were in a remote corner of the continent in the beginning of the tale. This adventure takes place in Kalaman on 351 AC, the easternmost city in Solamnia and a short travel away from Nordmaar. Three years ago Nordmaar was swiftly conquered by the Red Dragon Army, and Kalaman and the surrounding lands are no strangers to travelers and merchants from farther away. Nordmaar isn’t some reclusive country of insurmountable terrain, it has several cities and long had positive ties with Solamnia. By this time it would be public knowledge in eastern Solamnia that Nordmaar is under new administration, not to mention the forced displacement of people fleeing war.

Kalaman Region covers the province of Nightland, a Solamnic territory so named for frequent storms which are attributed to the wrath of the gods who left the world. The Knights of Solamnia are held in low esteem, as vague knowledge of Lord Soth’s failure turned into the broader claim that the Knights could have prevented the Cataclysm but chose not to, causing most of the populace to turn against them. Now most of Solamnia is a patchwork confederation of autonomous territories with different styles of government; in Kalaman’s case its government is presided over by trade guilds due to being a valued port city.

Religion and the Gods gives a rundown of Dragonlance’s deities. They are separated into three pantheons associated with each moral alignment. I covered the gods before in an earlier Let’s Read so no need to go over them again, but I can focus on what’s changed.

Details on individual deities are sparse, amounting to a sentence or two per god. Branchala is no longer chaotic good, instead neutral good, which means that there are no more chaotic good gods in the setting, whereas Mishakal changed from neutral good to lawful good. Each of the Gods of Neutrality are True Neutral in alignment: Shinare and Sirrion were formerly lawful and chaotic neutral respectively. As for the gods of evil only Chemosh has changed, from neutral to lawful evil.

But the other big change, and one that rubbed quite a few fans the wrong way, is that Goldmoon’s discovery of the Disks of Mishakal isn’t the first instance of non-evil clerics coming back into Ansalon. The Gods of Good and Neutrality are playing a bit of a slow head start: while divine magic* is still largely unknown on Krynn (the Dragon Armies excepting), there are a few mortals who witnessed and received miraculous visions. Unlike the Mages of High Sorcery, divine spellcasting is a personal affair of a relationship between a deity and the cleric/druid/paladin. In fact, the vast majority don’t have other priests to train and inform them, nor congregations to build their numbers, so they’re pretty much religious in isolation.

*There are many religious movements that arose after the Cataclysm, such as the Seekers of Abanasinia. Most who claim magical miracles are charlatans using arcane magic.

It’s easy to blame the gods for the Cataclysm. They sent the Thirteen Warnings and the burning mountain that followed. They sank Istar beneath the waves, shattered the continent, and withdrew from the world. They chose to cause the immense suffering of the disaster and the centuries since.

But let us suppose that the gods of good love this world and want us to flourish. That the gods of neutrality strive to steward and uphold the agency of mortals. That even the gods of evil, selfish as they are, seek power and influence, not destruction for its own sake. Why, then, would they punish us with the Cataclysm and leave us in a godless world?

I fear we’ve forgotten more than we remember. Worship of the true gods is ever waning, and false religions rise in their place. I pray every day that we’ve learned our lesson—that the gods will return, and that I may cede this chair to one who hears their voices and bears their true blessings.

Time alone will tell.

Rosamund Heward, Knight of the Crown
Acting High Clerist

Another portion of the text acknowledges the gods’ atrocities, but doesn’t have an answer and falls back into the “well it’s really our fault this happened” line that has been traditional for the setting.

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Chapter 1: Character Creation

This chapter covers what an enterprising player needs to know in creating their Krynnish PC.

Peoples of Krynn covers the major races and their cultures. Although each of them save Kender draw upon existing racial stats in the PHB or Monsters of the Multiverse, ability score modifiers can be chosen by the player as +2 to one score and +1 to another or +1 to 3 different scores.

Dwarves once claimed an extensive subterranean network of kingdoms beneath Ansalon, but the Cataclysm rendered most of them uninhabitable. Now dwarves are split into three groups, the mountain dwarven nations of Kayolin and Thorbadin, and the Neidar hill dwarves who lived above-ground and were denied entry into Thorbadin as refugees during the Cataclysm. The ensuing Dwarfgate Wars engendered a long-standing hatred between Thorbadin and Neidar dwarves that lasts to this day.

Now, you might notice that some subraces are missing, most notably the gully dwarf! In addition to the Cataclysm and its moral system, one of Dragonlance’s other controversial elements is its three short comic relief races. While gnomes and kender still exist as playable options, the gully dwarves were perhaps the most problematic and least fixable. So WotC simply did away with them, with hill dwarves capable of filling a similar role where some are reclusive survivalists forced to live off of harsh lands. There’s also no mention of the dark dwarven clans of Thorbadin or the nation of Zhakar.

Being one of the oldest surviving civilizations on Ansalon, the elves traditionally lived apart from the other races in the forests and seas. The Silvanesti are the oldest clan, with their Qualinesti cousins those who moved away in seeking a more egalitarian society after the Kinslayer War. They both use stats for high elves, and the Silvanesti became refugees once their leader resorted to using an Orb of Dragonkind* to protect his people from the invading Green Dragonarmy. Now their forest is an uninhabitable nightmare, and they are forced to take refuge in Southern Ergoth.

*Another retcon. They were originally the Dragon Orbs and occupied a similar role as Orbs of Dragonkind, but with expanded powers.

The Kagonesti use the stats of wood elves, being a group who sought to live as nomads and didn’t settle in Silvanesti instead opting for Ergoth’s forests. They welcomed the Silvanesti refugees and supported them, but “refuse to be overwhelmed by the Silveanesti’s numbers and distinct ways.”

This is another change from canon; in the original Dragonlance Chronicles, both the Qualinesti and Silvanesti enslaved the Kagonesti to use as an exploitable labor force. And they were still good-aligned while doing so! WotC rightfully retconned this.

The last group are the Sea Elves, made up of the Dargonesti who live in the deep sections of ocean and the Dimernesti who live closer to land and coastal shores. They are more isolated than their land-dwelling cousins, and use Sea Elf stats from Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse.

Gnomes still exist, with rock gnomes renamed tinker gnomes and forest gnomes getting a mere two-sentence description of living in harmony with nature in Sancrist and Kendermore. Tinker gnomes primarily live on Mount Nevermind on the island of Sancrist, famed for their inventions far beyond Ansalon’s medieval technology level. Tinker gnomes still maintain their comic relief aspects, being absent-minded professors whose inventions are of questionable reliability.

Humans are the most numerous race on Ansalon, split into many different groups, and there’s no more distinction between “civilized” and nomadic humans. We have brief write-ups on Abanasinia (settlers who are part of the theocratic Seeker religion and nomadic Plainsfolk), Northern and Southern Ergoth (the remnants of a prior empire who have good relations with the kender of Hylo and goblins in the North, and are in conflict with the ogres and giants of the South), Solamnia (inwards-focused autonomous provinces that are collectively the most prosperous society on the continent), and Tarsis (struggling former port city turned landlocked backwater). Other lands are briefly touched on, mostly in Dragon Army territory and amount to little more than individual sentences that don’t tell us much about the lands beyond broad geography.

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We lost the gully dwarves, but the Kender still persist with a unique entry all their own! Due to their infamy they need no introduction. They’re still humanoids with an unquenchable curiosity and fearlessness, although their notable habit of “borrowing” has instead been pseudo-retconned into amassing impressive collections of various curiosities. As a race they are Small humanoids with a 30 foot walking speed, and gain proficiency with one of five rogueish skills of their choice: insight, investigation, sleight of hand, stealth, or survival. Their famed fearlessness is a nerfed advantage on saves vs the frightened condition rather than outright immunity like in prior Editions, although once every long rest they can choose to auto-succeed on such a saving throw. Finally their Taunt feature is activated as a bonus action against a nearby creature, who if they fail a Wisdom save have disadvantage on attack rolls against targets besides the taunting kender until the start of the kender’s next turn. The taunt is of limited use based on their proficiency bonus times per long rest, and its DC is based on one mental ability score of the kender’s choice at character creation.

If I had to judge kender as a race they’re average, as overall their abilities don’t strongly push them to any particular role. Their skill bonuses would make them good rogues, but their lack of darkvision limits their capabilities for sneaking around in dungeons and dark places. Taunt can make them a surprisingly effective tank in drawing away enemy attention, although in being small they aren’t the kind of builds that gravitate towards heavy armor which tend to be on the martial side of things. In comparison to halflings they aren’t as good scouts: Lucky is overall useful, and Silent Speech or Naturally Stealthy of the subraces are good for sneaky pursuits.

But what of other races not listed here, like a half-orc or warforged? Well the default assumption is that such people are extraplanar travelers or existed as pre-Cataclysm civilizations that are now isolated enclaves. In other words, it leaves that to the Dungeon Master’s discretion. Sadly, there’s no mention for Dragonlance’s other canonical playable races such as centaurs, minotaurs, and ogres. Draconians at this point are the enemy and not a playable option.

Dragonlance has quite the number of iconic Organizations, most notably the honorable Knights of Solamnia and the Mages of High Sorcery. Wait a moment, did they use to be Wizards of High Sorcery? You guessed right, dear reader! You see, when Dragonlance was first made, it was as much a deconstruction of 1st Edition and the kind of world that the rules would make as it was a more epic “save the world” fantasy. Vancian spellcasting was a phenomena known as the Curse of the Magi, and the nine alignments which were new at the time made Good vs Evil prominent over Law vs Chaos. Every time a new Edition (or SAGA) came out, the world of Krynn was gradually updated with such changes.

But Shadow of the Dragon Queen is set firmly in the original Chronicles era, but still wants the full variety of class options. Arcane spellcasting is still a unique kind of magic which can be channeled through the three moons, but there exist spellcasters who gain their powers from innate heritage as well as pacts made with…well, I presume creatures that aren’t gods, otherwise warlocks would be divine casters. The book doesn’t really elaborate on the place non-wizard arcanists have in the world.

The Mages of High Sorcery reflects this change, although their number is still made up mostly of wizards as that kind of spellcasting is most conducive to shared resources via spellbooks. Otherwise they exist more or less the same as they did in prior Editions: a governing body regulating arcane spellcasters across Ansalon divided into three Orders pledged to a different God of Magic. The Test of High Sorcery is still performed, although there’s no hard and fast cutoff point of “once you learn 3rd level spells you have to take the Test or become a renegade” like in prior Editions. Instead, it’s a more relative line when a caster approaches a notable level of power that they’re no longer deemed a dabbler of magic in the eyes of the Orders.

As for the Knights of Solamnia, their origins lie with Solamnia itself, where the founder Vinas Solamnus joined a rebellion in the eastern provinces of the Empire of Ergoth when he came to sympathize with their grievances. Three Gods of Good, Paladin, Kiri-Jolith, and Habbakuk created three orders of knights to justly rule and protect the realm of Solamnia. Before the Cataclysm they were a respected order by the goodly peoples of Ansalon, although they became vilified in their own lands and overthrown in being blamed for not stopping the gods’ wrath. Now most Knights fled to Sancrist Isle where they rule openly as a dwindling organization, and elsewhere in Krynn disguise themselves to continue doing good work. A major issue facing the knighthood is whether or not to cling to their old codes in the face of changing times, or adapt to a new world in order to better protect it.

Feats provide us with 2 new backgrounds, 9 new feats for a Dragonlance campaign, as well as a new rule for bonus feats. At 1st level a PC gains a bonus feat, which is either the Squire of Solamnia if part of the Knights of Solamnia background, Initiate of High Sorcery if part of the Mage of High Sorcery background, or their choice of the Skilled or Tough feat if the PC belongs to neither group. At 4th level they gain another bonus feat, being their choice of one from the 1st level list, Adept of the Black/Red/White Robes if a Mage, Knight of the Crown/Rose/Sword if a Knight, or Alert/Divinely Favored/Mobile/Sentinel/War Caster if belonging to neither organization.

The rationale for these bonus feats is that Shadow of the Dragon Queen is a harder than normal adventure, so bonus feats help give an extra edge to characters.

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The Knight of Solamnia background is a pretty good one: it grants Athletics and Survival as bonus skills, 2 bonus languages of the player’s choice, and the Squire of Solamnia as a bonus feat. It oddly doesn’t provide tables for Personality Traits (neither does Mage of High Sorcery), instead only having a d6 table of trinkets and suggestions for appropriate classes. In prior Editions the Knights of Solamnia weren’t really known for their magic, with spellcasters mostly fighter/clerics with the return of the gods if Knights of the Sword or Rose, and paladins weren’t a playable class in 1st through 3rd Edition. But in Shadow of the Dragon Queen fighters, clerics, and paladins make up the bulk of their forces. Valor bards and zealot path barbarians who worship Habbakuk are suggested as more unusual options.

The Mage of High Sorcery background reflects a character who isn’t a full member but is already fastening ties with one of the Orders of High Sorcery. They gain Arcana and History as bonus skills along with 2 languages of the player’s choice along with the Initiate of High Sorcery feat. They are typically arcane spellcasters from a wide variety of classes and walks of life, although the Orders have been known to recruit divine spellcasters if they’re considered promising enough individuals. Gish style classes and characters are rare but not unknown.

As for the new feats, Divinely Favored has a prerequisite of 4th level and represents a god choosing the PC to have some of their power, granting one cleric cantrip and one 1st level spell of the player’s choice along with Augury. The 1st level spell is pulled from the warlock, cleric, or druid spell list depending on the deity’s alignment and it and augury can be cast once per long rest without a spell slot. It also lets the PC use a holy symbol as a casting focus, so you can definitely have a “Wizard-priest” of Gilean reflavored as a faithful seeker of knowledge.

Overall it’s an alright feat; it’s nothing exceptional or a no-brainer for broad roles, but as it can be gained for free it’s not such a bad choice.

Initiate of High Sorcery grants a bonus wizard cantrip and two 1st level spells based on an affiliated moon. Unlike Divinely Favored the bonus spells are not gate kept behind alignment, nor are the Adept Robe feats, so technically within the rules you can be an good-aligned Adept of the Red Robes or an evil-aligned Initiate choosing bonus spells from Solinari. The bonus spells can be cast from spell slots or once per long rest each if of a class without spellcasting.

As for the particular spells, Lunitari’s selection isn’t that impressive with some spells that may be useful in only a few situations, but Solinari takes the cake with shield being one of the options among some utility divinations. Nuitari grants more offensive spells with false life and hex as the standouts.

The moon you choose for Initiate also locks you into one of the three 4th level Adept feats from then on out. Each feat grants a 2nd level spell from one of the Order’s two favored schools (Abjuration & Divination for White, Illusion & Transmutation for Red, Enchantment & Necromancy for Black) along with a unique ability. Black Robe Adepts can spend their own Hit Dice to add to the damage of damaging spells, which makes this a great choice for gish builds. I smell some Barbarian/Wizards in the future! Black Robe Adepts can treat an attack or ability roll of 9 or lower on a d20 as a 10 a number of times per long rest equal to their proficiency bonus, which leaves me rather mum. Can be useful, but not a life-saver unless you’re already rolling with something you have a large modifier for. White Robe Adepts can spend a reaction to protect themselves or a nearby creature within 30 feet, reducing oncoming damage by xd6 + spellcasting ability modifier, with x being the level of an expended spell slot. Much like Shield, this can be a useful ability to save a party member from the brink of death.

Moving on to the knightly feats, Squire of Solamnia provides 2 unique features: mounting or dismounting costs only 5 feet of movement rather than half, and a number of times per long rest equal to their proficiency bonus (use is expended only on a hit) can make a weapon attack have advantage and add 1d8 to the damage roll. Pretty useful, especially given it doesn’t cost you on a failed attack.

The 3 Order-based knightly feats differ from High Sorcery in that they don’t lock each other out. While it’s traditional for Knights to join the orders in sequence of Crown-Sword-Rose, they retain the training they had in a prior order and mechanically there’s nothing saying that the Knight of the Crown feat is a prerequisite for Sword, or Sword a prerequisite for Rose. Each feat grants a +1 to one of 3 ability scores appropriate to the Order plus a special ability that can be used a number of times equal to their proficiency bonus per long rest. Crown gets a Commanding Rally activated as a bonus action to have an ally attack as a reaction and add 1d8 to the damage roll; Rose gets a Bolstering Rally activated as a bonus action to have an ally gain temporary hit points equal to 1d8 + proficiency bonus + ability modifier of the ability score increased with the feat; Sword grants a Demoralizing Strike which once per turn can be added to a successful weapon attack roll that imposes the frightened condition on a failed Wisdom save. Even on a successful save the target has disadvantage on its next attack roll.

Thematically speaking, Commanding Rally feels odd for Crown name-wise as the Knights of the Rose are the archetypical “leader knights.” Rose’s Bolstering Rally feels more appropriate for Crown or Sword, as those Order’s themes (loyalty and endurance for Crown, courage for Sword) best represent the increased staying power of temporary hit points. But in terms of mechanical effectiveness, Crown’s Commanding Rally is very useful as most martial classes don’t make use of reactions and this is a good way to give them an additional attack. And in regards to Rogues it can be a means to get Sneak Attack more than once per round as Sneak Attack is restricted to once per turn, not once per round. Demoralizing Strike is perhaps the least broadly useful as there are many creatures who can resist or be immune to the Frightened condition.

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The Lunar Sorcery Subclass rounds out our new options in Chapter 1, representing sorcerers who draw magical power from the moon or moons of the setting. It even mentions adapting it to other worlds, such as people blessed by Selune in the Forgotten Realms or those using knowledge of the Draconic Prophecy to draw power from Eberron’s 12 moons.

Each of this subclass’ features has a variable effect depending on whether they are manifesting the power of the New Moon, Crescent Moon, or Full Moon. This is determined not by the phases of the moon as they are, but chosen by the sorcerer after finishing a long rest. They learn new bonus spells at every odd-numbered level up to 9th, with their own table based on moon phase which switches out said spell. Full Moon spells are geared towards protection and restoration, New Moon towards debuffs, and Crescent to illusions of various kinds. Additionally at 1st level the sorcerer learns sacred flame and can target up to 2 targets within 5 feet if they wish when casting this cantrip. At 6th level they can reduce the sorcery point of a metamagic feature by 1 to a minimum of 0 based on their moon phase a number of times per long rest equal to their proficiency bonus: abjuration and divination spells for Full, enchantment and necromancy for New, and illusion and transmutation for Crescent.

Also at 6th level they can spend 1 sorcery point to change their personal phase and cast a 1st level bonus phase spell once without a spell slot once per long rest. At 14th level they gain a persistent buff depending on their phase: shedding bright light granting advantage in Investigation and Perception in Full, advantage on Stealth and impose disadvantage on attacks while in total darkness with New, and resistance to necrotic and radiant damage with Crescent.

Finally at 18th level they can spend a bonus action to use a special ability based on their phase: a blinding AoE attack and healing one target 3d8 hit points with Full, dealing 3d10 necrotic damage and reducing speed to 0 as an AoE with New plus becoming temporarily invisible, or teleporting yourself plus one willing creature up to 60 feet and both gaining resistance to damage until start of next turn with Crescent. These can be used once per long rest, with 5 sorcery points for every additional time between long rests.

Overall Lunar Sorcery is a strong subclass, although its varied phases have clear winners and losers. The bonus spells from Crescent are situational, with Full Moon having spells that are of broader use to a wider variety of builds and campaigns. New has the nifty blindness/deafness spell but as most of the other spells are Concentration you can’t make full use of them all in many fights.

As for Lunar Empowerment, New Moon is a clear winner. At this level it shouldn’t be hard to create conditions of darkness, and disadvantage on attack rolls against you is more useful than resistance to two uncommon damage types. The small aura of light from Full is the worst of the lot. For 18th level the AoE blinding light of Full is pretty good given that’s a powerful condition and most creatures rely upon sight. Crescent’s teleport is basically a longer-range Misty Step with damage resistance and feels a bit underwhelming.

Thoughts So Far: The player and setting-facing section of Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen is a good yet brief rundown on the world of Krynn for newcomers. As far as retconning elements, it leans towards a more conservative end in comparison to Ravenloft’s more dramatic changes. Much of the changes are done for both progressive sensibilities (which is good!) and also for more freedom of option in character-building (a more acquired taste that may not always make thematic sense). At times it feels that the authors are trying to walk a tightrope in pleasing both sides: kender are left pretty much unchanged save for ridding their “borrowing” aspect, and the Cataclysm still casts a dark shadow on the supposed non-evil gods. Steel pieces don’t make economic sense so gold is now the standard…but steel pieces are still just as valuable.

As for the Knights of Solamnia and Mages of High Sorcery, I feel that the openness in character creation is more a weakness than a strength. It certainly stands in contrast to the more restricted racial options, once again feeling like the authors are walking a tightrope than committing to a consistent strong vision. In the adventure it is possible for PC mages to end up in an Order they didn’t expect, and with their feat options may not necessarily be in an Order aligned with their lunar deity. The Lunar Sorcerer feels too broad in having a multitude of varyingly-balanced options at the expense of more tightly-focused options in other subclasses. The Knight of Solamnia feats stand out as appealing choices, and the idea of free bonus feats is already a popular house rule. Making the bonus feats ones that don’t grant Ability Score Increases or no-brainer options like Great Weapon Master or Lucky are also elements of good design. Save perhaps for War Caster, which is really good for just about any gish build or clerics who like shields.

Join us next time as we begin the adventure with Chapter 2: Prelude to War and Chapter 3: When Home Burns!
 
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dave2008

Legend
@Libertad , I always enjoy your reviews and I am sure I will this one. However, I had to stop and ask when I got to this:

"...making it so that Goldmoon is not the first non-evil post-Cataclysm divine spellcaster."

Unless I misunderstood what I have read (I have the adventure) and heard others discuss, this is not a completely true statement. From all the discussion of the War of the Lance timelines I have seen on these forums, it is entirely possible that Goldmoon is the first non-evil post-Cataclysm divine spellcaster. The timing of the PCs becoming divine casters could be directly after Goldmoon becomes one. It leaves the option for it to happen before, but it definitely could be after.

I think that is import for those who care about lore. The adventure doesn't necessarily contradict one of the foundational lore elements of the setting and this timeline.
 

dave2008

Legend
I also want to point out this is a bit misleading statement as well:

"*Her traditional title of the Dark Queen has been excised from this version of Dragonlance, and Wizards made it canon that she and Tiamat from other settings are one and the same."

TSR made this canon in the 1e Manual of the Planes (written by Jeff Grub one of the architects of Dragonlance) and 2e planescape settings among other references. And of course WotC continued that tradition in 4e and 5e products (including the 5e DMG) before this book. If you want to make a statement about this it would be more accurate to say something like:

"...Wixards continue to support that she and Tiamat from other settings are one and the same."

or you could have said this book, as far as I know, specifically mentions that her "true form" is a 5-headed dragon. I don't know that previous DL stuff ever made that distinction.

I guess you could say this is the first time in a Dragonlance product that is relationship clarified as this is also true IIRC.
 
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Steel_Wind

Legend
I thought this introduction & overview was excellent. I hope others see it and read it -- without it having to have the same half-dozen people beat their heads against the Cataclysm Wall for 30 pages just to keep this near the top of the list so that people see it.

Well done. Thanks again.
 

this sounds amazing. Form fixing the kender, to not having ablisit dwarves and some minor retcons this is like 80-90% what I wanted. I especially love the call out you made when they DID make changes (even minor ones).

Over all though it FEELs like Dragonlance, and gives me a quick reminder of being 14 reading the books (before I had ever played a ttrpg)
 

This is another change from canon; in the original Dragonlance Chronicles, both the Qualinesti and Silvanesti enslaved the Kagonesti to use as an exploitable labor force. And they were still good-aligned while doing so! WotC rightfully retconned this.

In 351 AC, this hasn't happened yet, or has only just started happening. The Silvanesti have just started reaching Southern Ergoth, and the Qualinesti have yet to go there. For any Kagonesti PC (I will be having a Kagonesti ranger in my game starting Saturday), at best they'll only know of the first Silvanesti arriving, and not know of anything beyond that.
 
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There is no fixed time specified in SotDQ as to when it begins. It leaves that up to each DM.
As it would take months for a character, or even news, from the southern part of Southern Ergoth to get all the way to northeastern Solamnia, the best anyone could know of what is happening would be from mid 351 at the latest (when the Silvanesti are just arriving and the Qualinesti aren't even contemplating relocating yet - the latter are still explicitly in their homeland as per their description in the book), and that's only if a DM puts the adventure at the very end of the year.
 

pukunui

Legend
There is no fixed time specified in SotDQ as to when it begins. It leaves that up to each DM.
It's implied that it is late in 351 AC, as it states that the Dragon Armies have spent most of the year regrouping, and it also says that Verminaard has just headed south to Abanasinia. So if you're familiar with DL lore and it matters to you, then you'll know the adventure should start around the same time that Goldmoon finds the Disks in the autumn of 351 AC. Otherwise, if you don't know or you don't care, then you can't just start the adventure whenever you feel like it.
 

Libertad

Hero
Before I continue, my last post received some good-faith criticism from dave2008, a poster on one of the forums I placed this review. They’re definitely worth covering so I’m including the quote as well as my own explanation and likely errors on my end:

@Libertad , I always enjoy your reviews and I am sure I will this one. However, I had to stop and ask when I got to this:

"...making it so that Goldmoon is not the first non-evil post-Cataclysm divine spellcaster."

Unless I misunderstood what I have read (I have the adventure) and heard others discuss, this is not a completely true statement. From all the discussion of the War of the Lance timelines I have seen on these forums, it is entirely possible that Goldmoon is the first non-evil post-Cataclysm divine spellcaster. The timing of the PCs becoming divine casters could be directly after Goldmoon becomes one. It leaves the option for it to happen before, but it definitely could be after.

I think that is import for those who care about lore. The adventure doesn't necessarily contradict one of the foundational lore elements of the setting and this timeline.

It’s true that Shadow of the Dragon Queen doesn’t explicitly call out Goldmoon by name or mention who was the “first cleric.” In War Cromes to Krynn, the section on Religion and the Gods can be plausibly read a certain way to imply that divine casting isn’t “just returning” but has been around in bits and pieces:

The gods of Krynn are said to have abandoned the world, and in the great cities of Ansalon, temples and centers of faith are few. Nevertheless, small miracles occur across the world. Druids and hidden communities offer prayers in the old ways and employ mysterious magic. Long-lived peoples remember the worship of the gods and see their shapes in nature and the constellations above. Ancient, forgotten sanctuaries hold wonders beyond imagination, and divine whispers reach those with the minds and hearts to listen. The gods haven’t wholly abandoned Krynn, and as threats grow, mortals turn to them once more—sometimes after a remarkable encounter with a messenger of the gods.

Additionally as I will cover in the adventure itself, divine magic PCs don’t begin play with their spells but “awaken” to them in a religious epiphany. But as Shadow of the Dragon Queen takes place in the vague time of 351 AC where Verminaard is down in Abanasinia, the mention of druids and hidden communities implies a longer-lasting presence than the literal days after Goldmoon’s epiphany where more people become divine spellcasters after hearing about her example.

The book is more vague than explicit on this count like other things, so that’s why my initial reading was that divine magic preceded Goldmoon in the 5e version.

I also want to point out this is a bit misleading statement as well:

"*Her traditional title of the Dark Queen has been excised from this version of Dragonlance, and Wizards made it canon that she and Tiamat from other settings are one and the same."

TSR made this canon in the 1e Manual of the Planes (written by Jeff Grub one of the architects of Dragonlance) and 2e planescape settings among other references. And of course WotC continued that tradition in 4e and 5e products (including the 5e DMG) before this book. If you want to make a statement about this it would be more accurate to say something like:

"...Wixards continue to support that she and Tiamat from other settings are one and the same."

or you could have said this book, as far as I know, specifically mentions that her "true form" is a 5-headed dragon. I don't know that previous DL stuff ever made that distinction.

I guess you could say this is the first time in a Dragonlance product that is relationship clarified as this is also true IIRC.

The Tiamat/Takhisis link was something that Margaret Weis didn’t care for, and several sourcebooks often maintained a separation of Dragonlance’s cosmology from D&D. This was particularly so during the 3rd Edition line, where Cam Banks said in a forum post that the Abyss of Krynn wasn’t the Abyss of the Great Wheel. As the end of the War of Souls novels had Takhisis die, which were published during the 3.5 era and Krynn’s Age of Mortals made this canon in their own products, having Tiamat still be alive in other settings was used as a rationale for the separation.

Naturally, the explicit references to five-headed dragons and Paladine’s association with platinum are a clear call to Bahamut and Tiamat of typical D&D cosmology. So TSR, WotC, and Jeff Grubb making the link explicit is an understandable one. I went with the Dragonlance conception by Weis and Hickman in being the foremost authorities on the setting, and as Weis was the publisher for the 3e line of products and had a hand in writing a few of them I went with that designation. Even so, Jeff Grubb also contributed greatly to the evolution of Dragonlance, so I was wrong on this account being a new thing.

Now on with the review!

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Chapter 2: Prelude to War

The original Dragons of Despair module began with a party split, where PCs ventured to the village of Solace in smaller individual bands. During that time they’d encounter strange occurrences and people forewarning that all is not well, and Prelude to War follows in Despair’s footsteps.

But before that, the book gives a rundown of what the various chapters cover along with the major villains of the adventure: Kansaldi Fire-Eyes is the Red Dragon Highmaster overseeing the Solamnic invasion. She is on orders from Verminaard to find a hidden weapon under the City of Lost Names. Lord Soth has been tasked with the Dragon Queen herself to help out Kansaldi, but isn’t a member of the Dragon Armies and is more or less allowed to do his own thing. Finally there are the draconians, who have a write-up that I’m not fond of:

As early as the preludes later in this chapter, the characters will face the Dragon Army’s secret weapon: draconians. These dragon-like monstrosities are unnatural creatures born of the Dragon Queen’s foul magic. All draconians are fanatically devoted to Takhisis and want nothing more than her conquest of the world. They are utterly loyal to the Dragon Army and those who speak in their god’s name. In the course of the adventure, present draconians as magical, monstrous, fanatical, and unknowable. They aren’t creatures with their own goals and ambitions. Rather, they are magical manifestations of the Dragon Queen’s thirst for conquest, and they wreak her will with lethal efficacy.

The various draconians of Krynn are detailed in appendix B.

With all the talk of revamping the always evil humanoid races such as orcs, this honestly comes off as hypocritical on Wizards of the Coast’s part. Even the Dragonlance sourcebooks and novels subverted the draconians in making them more three-dimensional over time, with a few breaking away from Takhisis and the Dragon Armies due to their poor treatment. This was also “G-level canon” to use Star Wars terminology, as Margaret Weis herself helped write the Doom Brigade which covered one such group of non-evil draconians who decided to build a nation of their own.

I get that an adventure like Shadow of the Dragon Queen wants a straightforward “here are color-coded bad guys to fight without remorse,” but like I said before it speaks to the lack of a consistent vision on the writers’ part.

As for the Preludes, the PCs begin at 1st level, and there are 3 sample ones suited to different character types. What unites the PCs is that they’re all good friends of the now-departed adventurer Ispin Greenshield, and are on the way to his funeral in the Solamnic village of Vogler.

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Broken Silence is a Prelude suitable for divine magic-using PCs. They won’t have access to such holy magic and class features until the end of this encounter, which involves detailing the first vision of their deity-to-be. The PC(s) have a bad dream of being the survivor of a massacre in a forest clearing, spotting a glowing amulet held by one of the corpses. While traveling to Vogler their camp is ransacked during the night and tracking down their stolen supplies they find a strange amulet among their belongings that matches the holy symbol of their chosen deity. The surrounding plant life parts in order to lead them to some ruins which hold broken statues of Krynn’s deities. The statue of their patron deity glows as they establish mental communication with them, and how this scene plays out is up to DM Fiat. But in short the deity wants the PC(s) to become their herald in the world.

This Prelude is written as though there’s only one divine spellcaster in the party. I suppose that multiple PCs can participate and get their own medallions of faith and statue-prophecies, but I feel that this would narratively cheapen what should be a unique once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

Eye in the Sky is a Prelude geared for PCs who wish to join the Orders of High Sorcery. It takes place on the Night of the Eye, when all three moons of magic are full and lined in front of each other to look like a giant floating eye. The PC(s) is summoned to an old spire full of extradimensional rooms known as the Barb, where a red-robed mage by the name of Rovina presides over it. After engaging in some small chat, she reveals a test for the would-be mage(s) and leads them to the Hall of Sight. The Hall has a pedestal in the center holding a key and is surrounded by a maze of invisible walls. The key opens up a door on the other end of the room which the PC(s) must open in order to leave and pass the test. Spells such as Detect Magic and Faerie Fire can reveal the magical outlines of the walls, the former spell by their auras. Otherwise an Investigation check is necessary to “feel” one’s way through the maze, and an Arcana check on the wall around the rotunda can reveal a cipher for a one-time casting of the Knock spell as an alternative solution.

The Prelude presumes that the trial is completed and doesn’t detail what happens for characters that end up hopelessly stumped. The adventure does mention that an NPC apprentice can accompany a PC if the DM deems that they need assistance. They use the Acolyte stat block, which is amusing as that NPC casts divine magic and at this point in the story such magic is a unique miraculous event.

Upon completion Rovina will give each PC a scroll with instructions to take it to the wizard Wyhan in the city of Kalaman which is conveniently near Vogler. They’re also instructed to not open the scroll under any circumstances. This last part is a secret test of character which along with the mages’ alignment can eventually determine what Order of High Sorcery they’re inducted into. The contents of the scrolls aren’t detailed if the PC decides to open them up, so I presume that they’re blank; they certainly aren’t Explosive Runes, that’s for sure!

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Scales of War is our final Prelude and is suitable for PCs who don’t fit into either of the above Preludes. It’s also the only Prelude which sees actual combat and involves the party coming upon a terrified fleeing commoner whose traveling companions were ambushed by strange cloaked figures. These figures are draconian scouts, one kapak and four baaz to be specific, looking through the dead bodies of the traveling companions who are actually uniformed Solamnic Knights.* The kapak and two of the baaz will attempt to flee so that they can report to their superiors, and all of them are wounded from their fight with half normal hit points. There’s no mention of possible developments for PCs who manage to take a draconian prisoner alive or decide to track down the fleeing ones, which is odd as many future encounters outline what soldiers know and can tell PCs if they’re taken alive (or cast Speak With Dead) to be interrogated.

*Their armor has been rendered useless from the fight so PCs can’t loot them for good armor.

I suppose that now’s a good time to talk about draconians. At this point in the story there are only five varieties of draconians in order of strength: baaz, kapak, bozak, sivak, and aurak. Unlike prior Editions their type is Monstrosity, not Dragon, although thematically they’re pretty much the same. All but the aurak have wings which they can use to avoid a certain amount of fall damage as well as unique death throes.

Baaz are straightforward melee brutes who can multiattack with short swords and have advantage on attack rolls when they can see an allied dragon. Their death throes are different than in previous Editions: while originally they turned to stone and could forcefully embed sharp weapons in their petrified forms, in 5e they impose the restrained condition on adjacent targets and who then can turn to stone for 1 minute if they fail a second Constitution save. I can see this change being made to still be debilitating yet not frustrating in forcing PCs to lose their weapons when fighting hordes of baaz. In prior DL games it was common for characters to have bludgeoning weapons as backup (at least with the groups I gamed with) to get around these death throes. On the other hand, petrification for 1 minute is pretty much a Save or Lose effect, so this still hinders melee characters particularly those without reach weapons.

As for the kapak, they are your sneaky assassin types who fight with daggers coated in their poisonous saliva. They get a bit of buff in 5e, being outright immune to the poisoned condition and poison damage, and their dagger attacks can poison and paralyze a target at the same time for 1 round if they fail a Constitution save. Their death throes remain the same in exploding into a cloud of acid.

There is no real mention on draconian gender in this book; the Dragon Armies could identify the physical sex of dragons before they hatched, so in their rituals in creating draconians they only used the male dragon eggs in order to control their numbers. They hid this from draconians and kept them in the dark, which resulted in a number of them rebelling and taking the rest of the dragon eggs to have greater reproductive freedom once the ruse was discovered. I bring this up as kapak draconians could have healing saliva if they were women, and the book doesn’t mention this at all.

Thoughts So Far: The Preludes are serviceable, although my critical eye can still spot some flaws in their make-up. They aren’t the kind of things that make encounters unbalanced or the adventure unplayable, but it is a throwback to the railroady nature of Dragonlance modules which presume a predetermined course of action without thought as to other likely PC actions.

I had plans to review Chapter 3 tonight as well, although as I don’t know how long that could take I wanted to get out what I could for Chapter 2 tonight.
 


With all the talk of revamping the always evil humanoid races such as orcs, this honestly comes off as hypocritical on Wizards of the Coast’s part. Even the Dragonlance sourcebooks and novels subverted the draconians in making them more three-dimensional over time, with a few breaking away from Takhisis and the Dragon Armies due to their poor treatment. This was also “G-level canon” to use Star Wars terminology, as Margaret Weis herself helped write the Doom Brigade which covered one such group of non-evil draconians who decided to build a nation of their own.
All of which happens after this point of time - right now they are basically Tolkien orcs, lacking any meaningful free will immediately after their creation, but will become more nuanced like Warcraft orcs later on. I'm sure any products set even a few years later will have a more varied take.
 


pukunui

Legend
@Libertad: I noticed the thing about low-level mages being given the acolyte stat block as well. As laughable as it is, I think the reason is that there is no low-level arcane caster in the MM. The apprentice mage stat block didn’t appear till later and clearly they didn’t feel like reprinting it here.

Regarding the preludes, I’m not that big a fan of them either. When I run this adventure, I think I’ll just narrate them as “this is something that happened just before the adventure started”. I mean, the divine caster prelude is pretty much just narration anyway. There are no real decision points and no dice rolls required. The whole "someone randomly stole your equipment while you were resting and then just dumped it over here along with a surprise" is kinda weird. Why not just have the PC in question hear a voice that only they can hear or feel otherwise compelled to head alone into the forest to find the temple?
 
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Libertad

Hero
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Chapter 3: When Home Burns

This is the first real chapter where the PCs all meet up, they and are now 2nd level after beating their respective Preludes. It starts out slow, with some fun and games in your stereotypical Starting RPG Village of Vogler…only to see it all burn down when the Red Dragon Army marches to war. During this chapter the PCs will go from 2nd to 4th level, where 3rd level is achieved after the first major battle at High Hill.

Vogler is a village along the Vingaard River. During the Age of Might it was the scene of a border skirmish between Istar and Solamnia, with the latter country winning. The Kingfisher Festival, named after the bird that is the symbol for the Knights of Solamnia, is an annual holiday celebrating the country’s victory over Istar. Vogler’s major industries revolve around fishing and river travel, and the partially ruined keep of Thornwall is home to a non-binary tinker gnome by the name of Than. They built a catapult-like gnomeflinger device at Thornwall’s top that the town tolerates because it looks like an intimidating siege engine that can give raiders second thoughts.

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The DM is encouraged to play up Vogler’s small town charm and has short descriptions of local vendors and notable citizens to make them care for the community. All the better to motivate them in saving the people from the Red Dragon Army!

Ispin’s funeral begins after the PCs meet up with Becklin Uth Viharin, a lady Knight of Solamnia who dresses openly for the part and is tolerated by locals as she’s served the community in defense against bandits and monsters. They can also meet Darrett Highwater, Becklin’s pupil who isn’t like most Solamnics and is in love with the legacy of the Knights. He can share details about the celebrations, Vogler’s history, and an upcoming mock battle with some mercenaries of the Ironclad Regiment as an historical reenactment known as the Battle of High Hill.

During Ispin’s funeral they will send his body to a boat to be sailed downriver, and to honor his memory his various friends and family members gather at the Sand Crab tavern to tell tall tales about his various adventures. PCs who participate can gain inspiration, but the good cheer will come to a stop due to the heckling of an arrogant boor of a man by the name of Bakaris the Younger. For those veteran fans you might recognize the name, for he was Kitiara’s second-in-command as the Blue Dragon Highmaster in the Chronicles. In this adventure he hasn’t yet defected to the Dragonarmies, but is a privileged bastard who harbors violent fantasies and relies on his father’s connections as a Solamnic noble to avoid being strung up. There will be several times when the PCs can use skill checks to distract or run him off during the festivities, although it doesn’t say what happens if someone loses their cool and decides to teach him what the five fingers said to the face. He and his father will be frequent foils to the party in challenges that aren’t meant to be solved with murderhoboing.

Other events during the Kingfisher Festival include a fishing contest with skill checks and minor prizes along with Becklin approaching a party member. She will read Ispin’s will where he gives his signature +1 shield to the party, but Beckline will only do this if they agree to participate in the Battle of High Hill.

Withholding a shield doesn’t seem very knightly. I presume this is meant to be played out as more of a gentle encouragement than a mandate.

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The Battle at High Hill is meant to take place between the village militia and volunteers from the Ironclad Regiment. Although their leader Cudgel Ironsmile is a straight-shooter, there are secretly a group of warriors who’ve been bought out by the Red Dragon Army and plan to use real weapons during the reenactment to kill Vogler’s people-at-arms and leave the village defenseless. As professional adventuring types the various NPCs will convince the PCs to take part, at the very least as impartial observers to ensure that “nobody gets hurt.”

Observant PCs can notice that the mercenaries aren’t using padded weapons, but whatever they hope to do is too late as all hell breaks loose and the PCs are immediately accosted by three mercenaries using Guard stats, one of whom is riding a warhorse.

You might notice that the above map has some intimidating-looking flames surrounding the edges. These are special Battlefield Encounters representing a larger surrounding skirmish or war. The flaming edges of the map are the Fray, which is a zone of difficult terrain that deals damage to characters who fail a Dexterity save when entering it from stray shots and the din of flashing swords. Additionally Battlefield Encounters make use of a rule similar to Lair Actions where at initiative 0 or whenever a PC enters the Fray some random event happens. Each Battlefield Encounter has its own table and tend to be things reflecting the chaotic nature of mass combat. In this case we have options such as terrified horses running people over, the appearance of an allied or hostile unit close to the party, or stray arrows dealing an area of effect attack.

PCs who dispatch the initial enemies will then come to face Gragonis, the half-ogre leader of the traitorous faction of the Ironclad Regiment and four more mercenaries with him. He uses ogre stats, and if the PCs are defeated during this or the previous battle then militia members can drag them to safety albeit at 1 hit point. Either way, the mercenaries are forced into a retreat but almost all of Vogler’s militia perished. Cudgel was also targeted by Gragonis’ goons for death but managed to survive, and she is just as pissed off as the villagers about this affair.

PCs have several opportunities to take charge of things, and will be asked to by allied NPCs. Healing the wounded results in grateful villagers rewarding them with valuables, and magical healing in particular can have rescued NPCs eager to learn more about their healer’s deity. PCs can interrogate a surviving mercenary to learn what he knows via successful Charisma skill checks, although Becklin and the mayor will interfere if the PCs try to torture him. Little can be found out besides the fact that Gragonis met with some armed group in the forest and got paid a lot of gold, and if Gragonis was taken alive he doesn’t know his client’s identity besides the fact they wore red and black armor.

The party will have a night to rest while Cudgel Ironsmile and villager scouts do some reconnaissance in the woods, although if they wish the PCs can also go scouting on their own. Either way the discovered information is the same: there’s a camp of hundreds of red tents in a shadowy valley. It is populated by hooded baaz draconians and Dragon Army Soldiers, and combat is meant more as a deterrence if PCs manage to visit. They won’t be overwhelmed or tracked back to the village if they decide to attack some of the warriors.

Dragon Army Soldiers are a new enemy NPC type in this module. They’re indoctrinated soldiers a cut above the average Guard or Bandit at Challenge Rating 1. They have a high 17 Armor Class thanks to their armor and shield, and their weapons have been magically enchanted with the power of red dragon breath to deal +1d4 bonus fire damage on top of the base weapon damage. Like baaz they have advantage on attacks when within sight of an allied dragon. Needless to say they can be a threat in numbers to 3rd level PCs, although they can’t really do much other than fight.

Vogler’s leadership is fully aware that they can’t win against this mysterious army in conventional battle. Cudgel is guilt-ridden and promises the support of the Regiment to Vogler’s defense if need be, and Becklin privately suspects the worst but puts on a confident face to the public. Lord Bakaris doesn’t care at all about the safety of the villagers but expects his half-baked ideas to be taken seriously. They will all listen to the PCs for advice, and once enough planning and debate is done a messenger from the Red Dragon Army arrives, speaking for the Voice of Takhisis demanding Vogler’s surrender and to quarter the soldiers of the Red Dragon Army.

Characters proficient in Religion recognize the name Takhisis as one of the gods of Krynn. A cleric of Takhisis or a character who succeeds on a DC 12 Intelligence (Religion) check recognizes a spiral symbol on the messenger’s armor as a symbol of Takhisis, the greatest of the evil gods, who is also known as the Dragon Queen. This same symbol appears on all Dragon Army armor.

I love how this module takes into account the completely oddball chance that some gaming group out there has a PC who is worshiping the primary villain of the setting, but decides to fight her minions anyway.

The messenger will leave peacefully but PCs who try to attack or capture her will be countered by four Dragon Army Soldiers throwing javelins from nearby cliffs.

Only the Mayor is in favor of acquiescing to the Dragon Army’s demands, but Becklin and Cudgel veto her knowing that the villagers will suffer in being personal witnesses to the “horrors of occupying forces.” The plan is to find a way to keep the Dragon Army occupied for the eventual goal of evacuating the village. The PCs have two options for the former in scaling the cliffs to deal with Dragon Army scouts using its vantage point to keep abreast of the horizon. They can climb normally or use Than’s gnomeflinger to get up there.

Sadly this plan doesn’t make any noticeable changes to the module, even if a Dragon Army Soldier retreats back to their main camp as the main force will invade and any buying of time won’t make a mechanical difference for the later encounters. The evacuation is a series of skill challenges, from Persuading the Mayor that it’s the best out of a series of bad options,* helping the Mayor avoid mass panic among an addressed crowd with Intimidation or Persuasion, using Survival to make impromptu boats out of ropes and logs to help locals flee by river, Investigation to convert the raft and boat pulley system of the ferry crossing to even more boats, and convincing the fishers to lend their personal boats to the evacuation effort with Persuasion. While the module mentions what happens for failures during some individual rolls, there’s no mention of how things turn out if the PCs fail to evacuate enough people in time. Presumably the casualties are higher, but this isn’t elaborated or reflected on in the Chapter itself.

*This is pretty much a But Thou Must skill check, as the rest of the module assumes that she agrees.

Becklin will aid Cudgel and the Ironclad Regiment in diverting the Red Dragon Army’s attention once they arrive at Vogler, and the PCs and Darrett will be asked to remain with the mayor to ensure that straggling villagers have protection if the Regiment falls. But Becklin has another piece of armor and private request for the PCs. She asks the group to give a large wooden box weighing 70 pounds to Darrett once he safely escapes town. The box contains a suit of Solamnic plate armor, which he will wear with pride for the rest of the campaign after this request is honored.

You know, this raises the inevitable question of what happens if the PCs suggest that the armor would be of more practical use in the upcoming battle. Like getting Darrett to wear it immediately, or if a PC decides to don it themselves. The module doesn’t make any suggestions on how the NPCs will react in such a case.

What’s that? Rules for incorporating the Warriors of Krynn board game into providing in-game benefits to groups running Shadow of the Dragon Queen? Say it ain’t so!

Several times throughout this adventure we get Warriors of Krynn Scenarios telling what events to run from that strategy game to be in line with Shadows’ narrative. PCs who win or hold during a scenario often gain benefits such as a magic item, although they don’t suffer any penalties on a loss. In this case a victory causes the Mayor to gift the party with a Quaal’s Feather Token (Bird).

While this sounds like a cool idea, the board game isn’t out yet, and according to this Polygon review one of the manuals actually spoils a later part of the adventure. So DMs seeking to use it will have to weigh the balance of spoiling some story details ahead of time vs enhanced simulation of the war-game aspects of Dragonlance.

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The Invasion of Vogler is a series of combat encounters one after another, such as saving a messenger scout from a pursuing baaz draconian, a random 1d10 table of events such as a gliding kapak ambushing the party, and a mandatory encounter with four baaz draconians wheeling forward a dragon-shaped siege engine known as a boilerdrak to burn down buildings.

The boilerdrak is not a monster in game terms, and requires three separate actions to light, aim, and fire a 60 foot cone of 5d10 fire damage. But it’s a gnomish device, meaning that every action triggers a d20 roll which causes the boilerdrak to explode on a natural 1 for the same amount as its breath weapon.

The Vogler Battlefield table has an even mixture of fishers and militia helping out the party and enemy draconians throwing flasks of fire or dying from its death throes as potential results.

Once the boilerdrak is destroyed, the ogre known as Fewmaster Gholcrag and two baaz minions will come to fight the party as the final battle during this chapter. The PCs will be forced to board a boat as Vogler burns in the background, and Cudgel’s lieutenant will arrive with Becklin’s horned helmet. The ultimate fate of Becklin and Cudgel are left to the DM, with a few sample events: the lieutenant is a traitor who assassinated Becklin and hopes to make Darrett his next target, he was sent by Becklin to warn the party their defenses failed and the knight has been captured alive, and so on.

Sadly, none of these scenarios are further elaborated on as potential encounters in the rest of this module. At this point the party levels up to 4.

Thoughts So Far: I’ll start out with what I like about When Home Burns. Its pacing and escalation are well-timed, and the important NPCs leave strong first impressions that even a DM with amateur skill can use to elicit the proper reactions from players. I can see Darrett in particular being a trusted ally, if by a shared bond of knowing what they’re fighting for if nothing else.

I have mixed feelings on the Battlefield Encounters mechanic. The Fray is very clearly an invisible barrier that punishes PCs who get too far from the battle, and is rather punishing against mounted and high-speed characters who would use their mobility to their advantage. It doesn’t really act as a stopgap against PCs with a natural flying speed, for the Fray is at the edges of the map and not above. I do like the pseudo-lair actions which throw random events into the fight, which helps round by round combat from growing too stale.

What I don’t like is the fact that this Chapter’s rather railroady, in that while there is the illusion of choice many of those choices don’t matter. The module suggests using Charisma checks to persuade the Mayor to go with the evacuation plan…and the rest of the module operates on her agreeing to this. The PCs can do recon to learn the Red Dragon Army’s numbers…or let some NPCs do it without any consequence. Vogler’s leaders and warriors will suggest the PCs kill the Dragon Army soldiers standing watch on the cliffs, but it doesn’t matter if any of them escape as the Army is going to besiege the village anyway.

As for the enemies themselves, besides the Boilerdrak siege engine and kapak glider the vast majority of enemies are virtually identical in being melee-focused armored warriors without any special abilities or actions in combat to make them do things besides “I attack” or “roll to save vs the draconian’s death throes.” At the very least the Dragon Army could have domesticated monsters for some variety in battle, and it wouldn’t be out of character with the existing lore.

Join us next time as we venture to the city of Kalaman, retake a fortress from the Dragon Army, and venture into some haunted catacombs in Chapter 4: Shadow of War!
 

I think the reason is that there is no low-level arcane caster in the MM.
Acolyte is in the free core rules, no need to even own a monster manual. I have noticed before that WotC prefer to use this source if something isn't important enough to be given a unique stat block in the adventure.
 
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As for the enemies themselves, besides the Boilerdrak siege engine and kapak glider the vast majority of enemies are virtually identical in being melee-focused armored warriors without any special abilities or actions in combat to make them do things besides “I attack” or “roll to save vs the draconian’s death throes.”
This is something of a taste thing. On the other side of the coin, the creatures in Call of the Netherdeep tend to be real b****s, with AoE stuns, high mobility, and other stuff that makes them punch well above their CR.
 

@Libertad: I noticed the thing about low-level mages being given the acolyte stat block as well. As laughable as it is, I think the reason is that there is no low-level arcane caster in the MM. The apprentice mage stat block didn’t appear till later and clearly they didn’t feel like reprinting it here.
Yeah I wonder if they will fix that in 1D&D
 

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