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

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!
so I get that you aren't supposed to open it... but what is the test itself there? IF you open it do you get black, and if you don't white? how do you get 3 options out of that? or does it just say 'let the player pick the robe color'?

edit: Part of me would want a scaled down 1d4 explosive ruins written as "I told you NOT explosive TO ruins OPEN this"
 

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pukunui

Legend
so I get that you aren't supposed to open it... but what is the test itself there? IF you open it do you get black, and if you don't white? how do you get 3 options out of that? or does it just say 'let the player pick the robe color'?

edit: Part of me would want a scaled down 1d4 explosive ruins written as "I told you NOT explosive TO ruins OPEN this"
There’s a chart in the section with the Black Robe you deliver the note to. One axis is alignment, the other is whether you opened the note or not.

If you’re good and don’t open it, then she recommends the white robes. If you’re evil and do open it, she recommends the black robes. Every other combination results in a red robes recommendation.

If it ever states what is written in the note, I missed it.
 



Libertad

Hero
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Chapter 4: Shadow of War

I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something off about this image. The art style is noticeably different from the rest of the book in that it has that “screenshot from a video game” vibe.

This is another 2-level chapter: the PCs reach 5th level before retaking Wheelwatch Outpost, and hit 6th level after they complete the Raided Catacombs at the end of the chapter.

We first open up with an overview of Kalaman, Beacon of the East. Its walls and harbor beacons still hold strong long after the Cataclysm, and the city is run by a governor and the leaders of various trade guilds who are predominantly humans and hill dwarves.

The PCs will first arrive with the refugees of Vogler, and after resolving business with Darrett’s armor and handling small conflicts between refugees the party will discover that both Lord Bakaris and his son are missing. Mayor Raven of Vogler will give the PCs the authority to approach Kalaman’s leaders to negotiate for the safety of her people. In fact, Bakaris the Younger and elder have departed from the village hours ago, and Lord Bakaris is currently addressing the city’s leaders! Both of them are selfish glory hogs, with Lord Bakaris convinced that he can attain more wealth and power by throwing Kalaman’s forces at the Red Dragon Army while he and his son sit back and claim all the credit. The PCs will need to attend the council meeting and provide their own more sensible advice and recounting of events. Marshal Vendri, the commander of Kalaman’s armed forces, will give the laydown of how various smaller villages have been attacked and razed but they couldn’t find the culprits, and Vogler is an exception in having a large number of survivors. Trusting that the PCs have proven themselves in the eyes of said survivors, they will be appointed as special operatives of the city’s military. Or as free agents under Darrett’s guidance for those independent-minded types.

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The only major quest in the city involves PCs who are initiates of High Sorcery delivering the scroll they received to Wyhan. She is a black-robed wizard operating a local apothecary, and the scroll is enchanted to let her know the deliverer’s alignment and if they opened the scroll. From this she will make a prediction of which Order the PC(s) will join after asking them some open-ended questions on their ideologies and motivations for why they wish to study magic. Those of morally neutral alignment will be the Red Robes regardless of whether they opened the scroll, but those of Good alignment will be White Robes if they didn’t open the scroll and Red if they did. Vice versa for Evil alignment, which is Black if they opened it and Red if they didn’t.

This is a first in Dragonlance material, and more or less explicitly spells out that moral alignment isn’t set in stone for the Orders. But the PC(s) isn’t an official member yet, for they must undertake the Test of High Sorcery at the Tower of Wayreth. But Wyhan first needs to hear from the Tower’s leaders for an opportune time to travel given the current political situation.

I will spoil things ahead of time and say that at no point does a mage PC travel to Wayreth, as the Orders deem the war in eastern Solamnia too risky on account that they don’t want to be perceived as “taking sides” in the Dragon Army conflict. The PC(s) will be considered a provisional mage, and will become an official member after a test from an archmage in Chapter 6.

While this makes sense in line with the campaign to avoid needless detours and additional material that may be bypassed by many gaming groups, I do wish that the adventure was better structured. In a way that the levels a PC may gain the Robe Adept feats at (4th) to better match them making progress in the eyes of NPC wizards of the Order.

Speaking of which, there are hardly any Solamnic Knights for PCs to interact with in this adventure path either. The closest we have is Darrett, who is still a squire, and Becklin who is pretty much consigned to death or DM Fiat for the rest of the campaign.

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Once the PCs finish up any errands in the city, they will be given lodgings in the castle and Darrett will meet with them to provide a series of missions in dealing with the Red Dragon Army threat. The first four are 1 plot-significant encounter and 3 smaller ones which can be summed up as random encounters in terms of length and importance and it’s up to the DM how many of those to run and in what order. At any time during these missions captured soldiers can reveal more workings about the Dragon Army such as their use of wyverns and dragonnels for flying mounts, or the capabilities of more powerful draconian types. The first mission involves leaving the city to find a gnomish artisan named Rookledust in the Vingaard Mountains; Kalaman wishes to hire her as a mechanical consultant for the boilerdrak and other possible devices the Dragon Army may employ.

Coincidentally Rookledust is the creator of the boilerdrak and sold it to the Dragon Army, but they lied to her in claiming they needed it for weed control. When the gnome caught on to their bad intentions she refused to sell anything else to them, so the Army sent a warband of goblins led by a hobgoblin to teach her a lesson. By the time the PCs arrive they will see goblins engaged in a chaotic battle with various clockwork devices, and this Battlefield Encounter doesn’t have a Fray zone but it does have a table of various gnomish inventions going haywire such as thrashing whip cords or a mechanical chicken laying explosive eggs in midair.

Rookledust is thankful to be saved and is willing to accompany the party back to Kalaman. She will also share a new device with them, the fargab, which is basically a backpack-sized walkie-talkie with a range of 18 miles.

The next missions are smaller individual encounters. The book suggests running more scenarios from Warriors of Krynn to show how Kalaman’s soldiers are faring against the Dragon Army, but these interludes provide no in-game benefits if the PCs win. The missions involve ambushing a human Dragon Army Soldier training hobgoblin recruits, locating missing scouts who have been captured by draconians, and figuring out the motives of a mysterious third party of armed soldiers…who turn out to be the survivors of the Ironclad Regiment, and Cudgel is more than happy to ally with Kalaman’s military. The PCs hit 5th level once they’ve done all of these missions.

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The next mission for the PCs is a big one: Kalaman’s southernmost outpost has been taken over by the Red Dragon Army and the PCs have to help them retake it. They won’t be doing this alone technically, as a detachment of Kalaman’s army will lie in wait as the party weakens the outpost’s defenses and opens the gate for them to charge inside.

This mission encourages a stealthy pursuit. PCs can perform Investigation checks at a safe distance to mark sentry numbers and patrols, and the Outpost is home to 16 Dragon Army Soldiers, 1 sivak, 2 baaz, a Dragon Army Officer and a dragonnel who is the Officer’s mount. The soldiers are spread out around the Outpost, and PCs may be able to enter nonviolently if they can disguise themselves as Dragon Army soldiers. The prison holds two people: Lanal the human soldier of Kalaman and Elgo Duckditcher the kender. They are both willing to help the PCs retake the fortress, although Elgo won’t leave the cell until the PCs recover her hoopak which is found elsewhere in the Outpost. As for Lanal, he can tell them about the fortress’ layout and how to work the gate, but only if he’s separated from Elgo; he finds her annoying and she insists he is her long-lost cousin Flannel.

Let’s go over the new enemies. Dragon Army Officers are tougher versions of Dragon Army Soldiers, but they can multiattack and perform a rechargeable Assault Orders ability that lets up to 2 other creatures make a melee attack as a reaction. Sivak draconians are Large-sized monsters with a flight speed and can attack up to 3 times per round with 2 swords and a tripping tail attack. They can take the illusory form of a humanoid they killed, and their death throes cause a shrieking image of their killer to impose the Frightened condition on a failed Wisdom save. Finally the Dragonnel is a Large-sized dragon who has some keen senses (blindsight 30 feet, darkvision 120 feet) and can only perform rending melee attacks but can avoid opportunity attacks when they fly out of an enemy’s reach.

As for Lanal and Elgo their stats are nothing to write home about, save that Lanal can grant advantage to an adjacent ally’s saving throw as a reaction and Elgo is immune to the Frightened condition and her Taunt imposes disadvantage on all attack rolls of a targeted creature (not just on targets besides the kender) and can be used an infinite number of times. Hey, why do NPC kender get better abilities than PCs?!

The “win condition” for this mission doesn’t necessarily involve killing the Officer or everyone at the Outpost, although if the latter happens it may as well be a win. If the PCs can open both the north and south gates then the Kalaman military will charge in and make short work of the Dragon Army. The gate control mechanisms are locked, requiring either thieves’ tools or keys found in a footlocker or carried by the commander to open. They take one minute each to fully raise the gates, and are obvious enough to attract the attention of creatures in the courtyard and nearby guard towers and fortifications. So even if PCs are stealthy and seek a “0 kill” run of this mission, it’s kind of inevitable that combat will happen.

The Battle of Steel Springs takes place after the PCs are heading back to Kalaman, where they will learn from an aide that Lord Bakaris has taken Darrett and a group of soldiers to fight some Dragon Army troops who broke away from a larger force. Darrett cannot disobey but knows Bakaris’ poor judgment will lead them to ruin, so the aide slips the group a sealed note explaining the danger. The Battle occurs once the PCs ride out to the war zone, which is both a Warriors of Krynn interlude (winning grants the PCs advantage on their next Deception or Persuasion roll to influence a soldier of Kalaman) and a Battlefield Encounter. The PCs have to rescue six Kalaman soldiers (same stats as Lanal) from four Dragon Army Soldiers on warhorses, and the lair action table includes a Kalaman soldier collapsing from their wounds, a stray arrow AoE, the summoning of additional allied or enemy units, and a dragonnel-riding enemy soldier falling to their deaths near a PC.

Darrett quickly takes command of the surviving forces, as Lord Bakaris has become unresponsive from a thousand-yard stare. Talk about a series of disastrous events! But back at Kalaman the city has received unexpected help with the unlikely arrival of the Knights of Solamnia! Things seem to be looking up!

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Or are they? The knights have entered the city without a word to meet with the governor and guild leaders, and nobody has heard any new developments. In reality these knights are Lord Soth and undead wights, and they murdered Kalaman’s leadership! Caradoc, a ghostly undead who can possess the bodies of others, sits in the council chamber in the body of a possessed living Knight waiting for any nosy do-gooders (such as the PCs) to come in and find out what’s going on. PCs can quickly realize that something is wrong as the Knights are silent, and passive Perception can reveal that their armor is rusted and incredibly old.

Caradoc will mock the PCs as he fights them, and he has a rechargeable ability where he can possess others and has a bonus action where he can force a target to attack an ally within their reach on a failed Wisdom save. He can be defeated the old-fashioned way, but if he is not possessing a target at the start of his turn he will be forcefully teleported back to Dargaard Keep (Soth’s headquarters) if he fails a Charisma saving throw. The knight Caradoc is possessing will be at 0 hit points if unpossessed, but if revived can help the PCs fight the undead.

At the end of the battle the PCs will find a letter from Lord Soth proclaiming himself as ruler over the province of Knightlund (the former name of Nightlund), and one of Soth’s banshees will appear to point to a hidden door in the chamber telling them of a secret that Soth can’t be allowed to possess.

For those Dragonlance newcomers, Lord Soth is tormented by banshees who in life were the elves who claimed that his wife was unfaithful, causing him to abandon his mission of stopping the Kingpriest to instead slay his wife in anger. This banshee, Leedara, is helping the PCs because she takes pleasure in making Lord Soth’s job harder than it needs to be, but won’t say anything else to them.

The Raided Catacombs is our first real dungeon crawl in the campaign, being a 7 room haunted dungeon which served as a tomb-temple for fallen Knights before the Cataclysm. When the Cataclysm happened the cursed fires of that horrible event still remained in pockets across Ansalon, such as these very tombs. As the PCs go through the dungeon they will witness visions of phantom flames playing out scenes of Lord Soth’s old life and detailing his fall from grace.

But what is this precious secret Leedara mentioned? These catacombs are also the resting place of Zanas Sarlamir of the Order of the Crown. When the Kingpriest of Istar built a floating pleasure-city powered by the souls of dead dragons atop one of their graveyards, the metallic dragons threatened to knock it out of the sky. Sarlamir was tasked by Paladine himself to broker peace between Istar and the dragons, but fearing the worst he took along a dragonlance that was his family’s heirloom. When the Kingpriest refused to back down, Sarlamir sided with Istar and used the dragonlance to kill the leader of the gold dragons, causing this sacred weapon to rust away and the dragons to knock the flying city out of the sky. None of the humans knew of what transpired, with the story then spun of Sarlamir defending the innocent from rampaging evil dragons. So his body and what remained of the dragonlance were taken back to Kalaman to be given a burial.

As for the crashed city? Well it now lies in the wastelands of northern Solamnia, now known as the City of Lost Names and the rumored great weapon that Kansaldi Fire-Eyes and Lord Soth are trying to rediscover.

As for the dungeon itself, it is light on monsters (all of which are undead) but heavy on magical treasure, including a new magic item: a Kagonesti Forest Shroud which gives advantage on Stealth checks and once per day lets the wearer teleport up to 30 feet and gain advantage on their next attack roll after doing so. Lord Soth used a portion of the Cataclysmic flame to reanimate Sarlamir as a Skeletal Knight to serve as the “boss” of this dungeon. The Skeletal Knight is a new undead type who has an Enervating Blade which prevents a target from regaining hit points until the Knight’s next turn but otherwise can’t do much else offensively. During the fight Sarlamir will drop clues, saying that he is commanded to destroy those who oppose Lord Soth and that he has been summoned to the City of Lost Names in the Northern Waste to rejoin Soth’s side. In the event of extremely lethal PCs he can relay this information as a “final dying breath.” The PCs can find the rusted spearhead of a Dragonlance as treasure, although its magic cannot be reactivated until later in the adventure when it’s consecrated in the Temple of Paladine in the City of Lost Names.

Thoughts So Far: I like this chapter more than When Home Burns for several reasons. The first is that the missions have some more variety, such as an actual dungeon crawl and retaking an Outpost that encourages stealth and reconnaissance over straightforward fighting. Caradoc serves as an interesting puzzle boss in that his special abilities can put PCs in the unenviable dilemma of having to hurt their allies, and I like how the PCs can learn more about the Dragon Army via captured intelligence.

I’m not as fond of the pre-Wheelwatch missions, in that they feel like very obvious filler content, and if done on separate days the PCs can easily overcome the enemies by making full use of spells and other per-day resources. I wish that there was more side content for PCs to do in Kalaman besides the High Sorcery sidequest, and Sarlamir’s predictable “melee fighter” tactics feel like a letdown in contrast to Caradoc’s more novel encounter.

Join us next time as we embark on a hexcrawl in Chapter 5: the Northern Wastes!
 
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Libertad

Hero
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Chapter 5: the Northern Wastes

This desolate stretch of Solamnia is a no-man’s land of dry canyons which get regularly flooded by seawater in a phenomenon known as the Wash. It is here that Istar’s floating city crashed into the surface, and the bones of dead dragons can be found throughout the region. In this chapter the PCs level up twice, although when they do is left more to DM discretion with some sample suggestions like completing 3 adventuring locations or when they find the passage to the City of Lost Names.

Back in Kalaman, the sudden murder of the city’s leadership forced Marshal Vendri into keeping order, and Lord Bakaris is angry that is son went missing (he joined the Dragon Army). While Vendri doesn’t know much about the legacy of the dragonlances nor about a City of Lost Names, he does know that a sizable force of Dragon Army soldiers moved into the Northern Wastes. Based off of Lord Soth’s clues, he concludes that whatever they’re looking for must be very important. Darrett and a few hundred soldiers are to be sent into the Northern Wastes, and the PCs can accompany them serving as scouts.

If the party has a prospective member of an Order of High Sorcery, it is at this point they’ll be contacted by Wyhan that they can’t take the Test. But they’re given a brooch of red, black, and white stones marking them as a provisional member from the Conclave’s blessing.

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The Northern Wastes is a hexcrawl focused chapter with 11 locations of note. The uneven terrain plus the size of Darrett’s forces means that travel is slower than usual. PCs are expected to scout ahead and rendezvous with the army at predetermined points to report on things. Additionally the flash floods of the Wash can trigger at the DM’s discretion, and a Survival check can warn PCs ahead of time to retreat to higher ground.

The City of Lost Names (area K) is the main objective, although the ways the PCs can find it are rather restrictive. If not by dumb luck via wandering, the only real way is via doing a series of tasks for a scholarly expedition of Silvanesti wizards in area B and whose sailing vessel is in a hidden cove in Area A. The elves are searching for ancient pre-Cataclysm ruins, and for some added fanservice one of them is Dalamar! Their homeland lies in ruins, so there is some hope among the elves that recovering powerful magic will help save their homeland. Dalamar is more skeptical of the success of their mission, but mentioning the City of Lost Names earns his interest. Via cross-referencing his own notes he can find its location if the PCs visit 3 specific locations (areas C thru E) in the Wastes and report back to him.

Area C is an ancient shrine to Habbakuk, and a group of Dimernesti elves are making a pilgrimage to it. Some of their brethren have been taken hostage in a Dragon Army camp (area I) and the Sunward Fortress (area D). Rescuing the elves rewards the party with pearls and the location of secret passages in the shrine. The shrine is a 6 room dungeon crawl whose difficulty varies depending on how much respect they show to the deity: failing to wash oneself in the basins at the entrance summons water weirds to bar entry and disturbing the (treasureless) sarcophagus forces the party to fight some black puddings later on. If the other sea elves have been rescued, then their leader can accompany them into the shrine and help avoid such dangers along with giving them some expensive pearls as a reward.

Area D is Sunward Fortress, an ancient pre-Cataclysm structure dedicated to Sirrion. It is home to a shard imbued with the power of the Spawning Stone which can transform nearby life into slaadi. A bozak draconian was ordered to stay and research it, although the shard’s corruption has turned him and the other draconians into slaadi-draconian hybrids which use slaadi stat blocks. This is also a short dungeon crawl, being 5 rooms with two captives that can be freed: a sea elf and a human hunter from Heart’s Hollow in area G. The hunter has been infected with a slaadi tadpole, and if his life is saved his hometown can award the party 1,000 gp.

Area E is Wakenreth, an obelisk of Silvanesti construction marking the peace between them and the Empire of Istar. It broke off from the City of Lost Names as it fell, and its magical construction has frozen it in time to make it look like a half-disintegrated tower with its debris hanging in midair. It’s a vertical 5 room dungeon crawl inhabited by the wraiths of dead Silvanesti, some of which can be interacted with, and there’s some magic items to be gained such as a cloak of protection and dancing longsword. The wraiths can tell the party that the tower has become connected to the Shadowfell which is responsible for its cursed state. A PC can undo the curse by activating the runes originally meant to connect the tower to the Feywild, although the attempt can impose necrotic damage and exhaustion. While they’re doing this, an anhkolox will climb up the tower and attack. An anhkolox is a huge Challenge Rating 9 undead that looks like a massive half-decayed bear, and as is to be expected is a primarily melee monster who can grapple and restrain targets into its rib cage.

Area F is an abandoned blue dragon’s lair that is now home to a family of dwarven prisoners fleeing the Red Dragon Army. Or rather, they were using it as a home before some draconians occupied it as a strategic spot, and there’s also a pack of gricks who have been attacking the draconians. A 3 room dungeon crawl with a rich hoard and boots of levitation.

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Area G is Heart’s Hollow, a small circular town of several hundred people built around the inner walls of a large crater. It is a thriving assortment of people from varying walks of life, descended from the original inhabitants who were rescued from various dire fates by their community leader Nezrah. Although Nezrah appears as an elderly human, in reality she is a shape changed bronze dragon. PCs exploring nearby can meet and rescue one of its residents, Clystran, a scavenger who is knowledgeable about the Northern Wastes. In addition to being a safe place to rest, PCs can learn about other locations in the Wastes and hire guides to make travel easier. PCs who recover a dragon egg from Camp Carrionclay will be rewarded by Nezrah with a suit of dragon scale mail made from her own scales. That’s the furthest extent of her help, and she won’t take a more direct action against the Red Dragon Army.

Area H is a spire inhabited by 12 wasteland dragonnels, who unlike the ones in the Red Dragon Army are good-aligned and have a ranged acid spit attack. There isn’t much to do here besides helping Clystran out on an errand to leave some meat out for them.

Area I is Camp Carrionclay, a Red Dragon Army outpost serving as part of a supply line. PCs who are defeated in combat by Dragon Army soldiers will be taken here as prisoners, and it is a fortified structure surrounded by a moat filled with quipper swarms. In addition to the sea elves, there’s also a kender by the name of Kennah and a captured bulette, the latter which will go on a rampage and attack anyone in sight if freed. The rest of the camp’s inhabitants are a mixture of baaz and sivak draconians, hobgoblins, and Dragon Army soldiers and officers. The soldiers managed to find a bronze dragon egg which is kept in a chest of the camp’s leader, and once the PCs retrieve the egg or otherwise seek to escape an adult black dragon known as Akhviri will arrive at the camp. Barring canny optimization, she is well above the reasonable threat level for most groups and PCs are encouraged to run. In being the first real dragon the PCs likely encountered in this adventure they will have disadvantage against her Frightful Presence. She won’t pursue the PCs if they flee, instead delegating that task to the soldiers.

Area J is an unassuming inlet known as Dread Wolf Cove, which Dalamar will ask the PCs to escort him to once they visit the three locations he requested. It is a fog-shrouded place home to another anhkolox, as well as the fractured shard of an Orb of Dragonkind responsible for the supernatural fog. This is the reason why Dalamar wants to go here, although he won’t tell the PCs of the shard’s significance. PCs who overcome his deception with Insight can press him into revealing its nature as well as the fact that he’s unsure whether to use it to help his people or use it for himself. He won’t fight the PCs if they keep it for themselves, but will try to steal it later. As to when he does so, the book leaves that up to the DM.

Unlike Soth, Dalamar doesn’t have any unique stat block, simply using the Mage one.

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Area K is home to the City of Lost Names, with a canyon running down the middle of a plateau being the major passage into it. This canyon is heavily guarded by the Red Dragon army, far more than in Camp Carrionclay, and their aerial scouts and mages can detect the PCs if they try to sneak on by.* The PCs will need the help of Darrett’s own forces to get through, and as you can guess it is both a Warriors of Krynn scenario (no special benefit for winning), and a Battlefield Encounter pitting the PCs against three Dragon Army officers and a dragonnel. The lair actions involve enemy reinforcements, threats from the sky such as a dead falling dragonnel or mounted sniper, and a cloud of dust obscuring vision.

*Railroad alert!

Thoughts So Far: The openness of the hex crawl is a refreshing change of pace from the railroady nature of the prior chapters. The multiple mini dungeon crawls are of perfect length, and the opportunities to reward the party for helping out the two elven groups, the dwarves, and the inhabitants of Heart’s Hollow encourage exploration and good-hearted heroism. Even so, the adventure has less freedom than it initially seems, as the PCs more or less need Dalamar’s help in order to find area K. But with the preceding elements this funnel is not as apparent, marking it as one of the better chapters in this book.

Join us next time as we head into the City of Lost Names and gaze upon the lost wonders of the Age of Might!
 

Davies

Legend
the only real way is via doing a series of tasks for a scholarly expedition of Silvanesti wizards in area B and whose sailing vessel is in a hidden cove in Area A. The elves are searching for ancient pre-Cataclysm ruins, and for some added fanservice one of them is Dalamar!
By any chance do we get to rat him out to the others? <he asked, gleefully rubbing his hands>
 

pukunui

Legend
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Chapter 4: Shadow of War

I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something off about this image. The art style is noticeably different from the rest of the book in that it has that “screenshot from a video game” vibe.
I feel the same way. Video game screenshot was my first thought too.

The prison holds two people: Lanal the human soldier of Kalaman and Elgo Duckditcher the kender. They are both willing to help the PCs retake the fortress, although Elgo won’t leave the cell until the PCs recover her hoopak which is found elsewhere in the Outpost. As for Lanal, he can tell them about the fortress’ layout and how to work the gate, but only if he’s separated from Elgo; he finds her annoying and she insists he is her long-lost cousin Flannel.
With Elgo's surname, I can't decide whether to smirk, roll my eyes, facepalm, or all three.
 

Libertad

Hero
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Chapter 6: City of Lost Names

The entirety of this chapter takes place among the ruins of the same name. It was once known as Onyari, the City Without Sin, a project by the Kingpriest to reward his most loyal (and wealthiest) followers with a heavenly paradise where in due time they can overcome their mortal limitations once he obtained godhood. What the Kingpriest and his inner circle withheld from others was that the floating city was built upon an ancient dragon graveyard, absorbing their essence to power its magic.

For all the debates and arguments over the alignment and intentions of the Kingpriest in “going too far to wipe out evil” or that time Paladin authoritatively stated that he was a genuinely good man in the novels, I have to admire the sheer tenacity of Wizards of the Coast having him build a floating magical naughty word pad powered by the souls of dead dragons. This’ll certainly be an interesting wrench to throw into the future discourse of his moral compass!

Although the city is thoroughly earthbound, the magical workings to make it fly again are still intact. There is no time limit for when the Red Dragon Army reactivates this and is designed to occur by the Laws of Plot. During this chapter the PCs will grow from 8th to 10th level, with the 9th level mark being malleable but suggested after they forge a dragonlance.

In going through the canyon the PCs are funneled through tunnels in a 9 room dungeon crawl known as the Path of Memories. The monsters within this section are the immortal types, such as a passive stone golem guardian and dragon skeletons which have the stats of spell-less bone nagas. PCs who fail to convince the spirit of a vengeful dragon that they aren’t responsible for Onyari’s injustices will fight a new monster, a lesser death dragon.

Death dragons are skeletal undead dragons who were resurrected by the fires of the Cataclysm. Both the lesser and greater versions have your typical dragon-themed abilities of powerful melee attacks and a Cataclysmic Breath weapon that deals necrotic damage and reanimates slain humanoids as zombies. The greater death dragon, in addition to being more powerful, also has legendary actions and resistance.

The other interesting figure PCs can encounter here is the Red Robe archmage Demelin. She was an elf and chief magical architect of Onyari’s construction, and after the city fell she took on the self-imposed role as its guardian to ensure it won’t be reactivated. Given that the Dragon Army is present, she isn’t doing a very good job, but is willing to “help” the PCs by giving them information about the city yet nothing more direct. If at least one PC is a Mage of High Sorcery she can give them a proper Test to make them a full member!

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The Test is short and has some guidelines on personalizing it for particular PCs based on their goals, personality, and alignment. The trials are not directly harmful but are meant to test their morality in determining what Order the mage joins. Death, the penalty for ordinarily failing the Test, won’t happen unless the character forsakes the use of all magic (fat chance) or refuses to engage with the Test at all. Demelin will conjure an illusory world portraying Onyari during the metallic dragon attack, and based on their alignment the mage will be met with a moral dilemma. For example, a neutral character is tasked to rescue some irreplaceable tomes from a building. Guardian scholars and innocents within are being attacked by a dragon, and a PC who prioritizes saving the defenseless innocents will be awarded induction into the White Robes along with an appropriate uniform magically summoned onto their person. But prioritizing the guardians or themselves will give them Red Robes, and taking the books and leaving everyone to fend for themselves will be awarded the Black Robes.

I think these optional High Sorcery encounters are cool and fit perfectly within Dragonlance, but they make me wish that the Knights of Solamnia got as much screen time.

The City itself has three major areas to explore: a sinister temple known as the Bastion of Takhisis which is heavily guarded, a ruined Occupied Mansion, a tower in the center of the city known as the Threshold of the Heavens, and the Temple of Paladine. You might have counted four just now, right? Although the PCs can explore them in whatever order they wish, the book warns the DM to discourage the PCs from approaching the Bastion. As to why? Well it’s supposed to be explored in Chapter 7, silly!

Choo choo, there’s no stopping the Dragonlance Express!

PCs who have a fargab will receive word from Rookledust to look for the Dragon Armies leaders and take them out in case they’re at a loss for what to do or plan while in the city. The random encounters are nothing to write home about, save one with a friendly death slaad who wants to eat one of each type of draconian. It will accompany the party as part of its hunt and reward them with a ring of feather falling if they help it with this task.

Huh, a slaad DMPC. This must be a first for Dragonlance, or D&D in general! Given how powerful a death slaad is at this point in the campaign relative to the PCs, having him join the party is a great idea.

The Occupied Mansion is a 2-story, 11 room building inhabited by a mixture of human Dragon Army soldiers and kapak and bozak draconians. In addition to having some nice treasure such as a pearl of power and javelins of lightning, the PCs can encounter the aurak draconian Captain Hask whose desk is full of reports concerning their work in the City of Lost Names, with the most pertinent details that two VIPs (the wizard Lohezet and the priest Belephaion) are working at the spire in the center on an important project. Much like Wheelwatch Outpost, it is entirely possible for PCs to move about without drawing a violent response if they disguise themselves as Dragon Army soldiers.

As this is our first aurak draconian encounter, let’s cover what they can do. They are the mage-focused breed of draconians, lacking wings but possess a variety of spells. Their spells aren’t damaging but include things to help confound enemies such as invisibility, disguise self, and dominate person, and their primary damaging attacks are an energy ray, melee rending claws, and a noxious breath that can inflict exhaustion on targets. Its death throes turn it into a ball of lightning that strikes two nearby targets.

I also realize that we didn’t cover bozaks in prior posts either. Well, they’re also magically-inclined albeit not as much as the auraks. They fight with a trident and can shoot discharges of lightning as their primary damaging attacks, and three out of four of their spells are battlefield control stuff like stinking cloud, web, and enlarge/reduce (the last being invisibility). Their death throes cause their bones to explode dealing force damage to nearby targets.

And since this mansion is an important place, any soldiers killed will be noticed after 24 hours. There is no similar thing that happens regarding the Threshold of the Heavens, which I find rather amusing.

2tbVi0b.png


The Temple of Paladine is actually pretty short despite being technically 7 rooms. A beautiful building surrounded by shallow water, Dragon Army soldiers who previously investigated were killed by the treant sentry known as Duskwalker. PCs can earn its trust by displaying a holy symbol associated with one of the nature gods (Chislev, Habbakuk, Zeboim) to let them pass or otherwise convincing it of their good intentions via Persuasion. Duskwalker can tell the party a bit about Onyari (it was the caretaker of its gardens) and how it hates the Dragon Armies disturbing the plants. Some of the other monstrous guardians can be passed by nonviolently, such as nonevil mummies who relent in fighting if a symbol of Paladine is brandished at them, and the treasure here is geared towards a holy nature such as healing potions and scrolls of gentle repose.

But the greatest treasure of all is at the altar dedicated to Paladine, and Sarlamir’s lancehead will glow if placed on it. Paladin himself will intervene, turning it into a fully-formed dragonlance so that they may “banish the shadow of the Dragon Queen with the light of this most sacred weapon.” PCs also get fully healed and any who were dead are resurrected and teleported to the altar if they’re not present.

The Threshold of the Heavens is the final area of Chapter 6, and it is here the chapter will end once the PCs deal with its boss. It’s a vertical 5 floor, 10 room dungeon crawl packed to the gills with draconians and flameskull guardians. There’s also a new monster type, an Istarian drone, which are magical constructs designed during the Age of Might to build the marvelous structures of Istar. They are primarily melee attackers who have a rechargeable crystalline spit that can damage and restrain targets, although a Drone Monitoring room has a console which can let a character hijack a drone for direct control if they succeed on an Arcana check. PCs who take the “disguise ourselves as the enemy” tactic have the opportunity to learn some things about Lohezet and Belephaion, the Black Robe mage and priest of Takhisis, from a bone devil magically compelled to serve the former character. They can learn about the dangers of higher floors as well as the fact that the priest has some kind of secret power.

Lohezet holds no real loyalty to the Dragon Armies, and if confronted will feign being forced to serve and leave if the party proves too powerful if they manage to kill Belephaion. He can share pertinent info with the characters about his research as a bargaining chip if they see through his lie, and the scrying mirrors in his room along with a magical map being read by aurak draconians one floor down can reveal that the Dragon Army is magically monitoring the active troop movements of Kalaman.

Lohezet isn’t a typical wizard, but has his own unique stat block where in addition to typical (non-damaging) spells he can use a variety of necrotic and poison damage attacks such as a reaction-activated mist attack and a rechargeable poisonous miasma.

aNSHGPy.png


As for Belephaion, he is with two bozak draconians in the uppermost room. His secret power is that he’s a young blue dragon who can change shape into an eagle or humanoid, and after giving a typical evil speech will activate the throne to slowly cause the city to hover. The throne is attuned to the dragon and the process once begun cannot be dispelled, and Belephaion will refuse to lower it if captured alive.

As the architects have not reinforced key points in the ruins yet, the raising will be only partially successful, causing parts of the city to dangerously break apart as it rises. The PCs will have to hurriedly make a break for it as the world around them crumbles.

The most intact structure that rises into the clouds is the Bastion of Takhisis. With the Dragon Army personnel on it, it serves as a proper aerial citadel from which to launch devastating raids against the Dragon Queen’s enemies. The PCs will catch Lord Soth riding on a death dragon flying towards the floating temple. After a Warriors of Krynn scenario (gain healing potions and a ring of fire resistance if won) the PCs will gain 10th level as they share the bad news with Darrett that the Red Dragon Army is in possession of an honest-to-gods flying fortress!

Thoughts So Far: Let’s start out with what I like. This chapter has perhaps the widest variety of enemy types and tactics seen so far in the campaign. The death dragon encounter, the blue dragon boss battle, the optional treant fight, the Istarian drones and their control panel, the introduction of aurak draconians and a unique Black Robe mage all look like interesting enemies that can make a fight feel fresh and engaging. I also like the Test of High Sorcery, in that instead of being an extended 1 on 1 encounter is more of a short moral test to avoid the Dragonlance equivalent of Shadowrun’s Decker Problem.

But now on to the criticisms, and boy do I have a lot!

The City of Lost Names is like a miniaturized version of the Northern Wastes in being heavy on open exploration with locations the PCs can visit in nonlinear order. It doesn’t hold up to that chapter, however, for a few reasons. My most major concern is that it is entirely possible for PCs to sequence-break and come to the Threshold too early, bypassing getting a Dragonlance. There should be more explicit hooks to encourage PCs to venture to certain locations beyond just getting a phone call from a gnome, like murals depicting a dragonlance being forged at the Temple or Dragon Army prisoners who if rescued can give the PCs information. Also after all that they’ve been through, the whole “there’s a lot of soldiers guarding this place” feels a bit weak of a deterrence in causing them to not go to the Bastion of Takhisis.

While I have been complaining about this module’s ultra-linear nature, I do feel that there should be stronger clues pushing them towards the Temple of Paladine or providing alternate ways of reforging the Dragonlance. Playing a Dragonlance campaign without getting its namesake artifact is like running a Dark Sun game without the opportunity to kill slavers.

Or Planescape without getting into a philosophical argument. Or Eberron without getting to use cool magitech devices. Or Ravenloft without getting to stake a vampire.

Edit: I managed to miss a pertinent bit of text where Demelin will detect Sarlamir's lance on the party, and mention its presence even if not volunteered. She will tell them to take it to the Temple of Paladine as she doesn't think its reappearance is a coincidence. This mollifies my above criticism a lot.

Beyond this, some of the potential allied characters, such as Duskwalker the treant and Demelin the archmage, feel a bit too inactive in regards to the Dragon Army threatening their protected charges. I can understand not having the manpower to take on an entire military force, but I can see many gaming groups try to cajole them into more precise strikes like assassinating the aurak captain in the mansion or creating a distraction while the party sneaks into the Bastion of Takhisis or the Threshold of the Heavens. Not to mention seeking out their fate once the city’s foundation crumbles! The fact that a death slaad is of more direct help than the holy guardians of a good-aligned temple is rather ironic.

Another weak point is that the module doesn’t say or take into account what happens if a PC manages to magically force Belephaion to reverse the change, like with the use of enchantment magic. While I understand that this is unlikely even at this level (PCs would have access to Dominate Person and not Dominate Monster) you know that there’s some interesting build, magic item, or material out there a clever gaming group will take advantage of at such a crucial moment, and Belephaion isn’t old enough to have Legendary Resistance. Personally speaking it would be cleaner and simpler to just make the process one-way and the dragon can’t reverse it even if he wants to.

I realize that I may sound a bit overcritical, but after seeing the high points this module can achieve back in Chapter 5 it’s a let-down to see it fall back down one chapter later.

Join us next time as we conclude the saga in Chapter 7: Siege of Kalaman!
 
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Libertad

Hero
By any chance do we get to rat him out to the others? <he asked, gleefully rubbing his hands>

The adventure has no explanation as to what happens in such a case. In case, it also doesn't mention what happens if the PCs trigger a TIME PARADOX and end up getting Dalamar killed. Which I can see happening in Dread Wolf Cove if the monster manages to restrain him. This is another oversight in the module in not having an alternative to relying on Dalamar's aid.

I feel the same way. Video game screenshot was my first thought too.


With Elgo's surname, I can't decide whether to smirk, roll my eyes, facepalm, or all three.

The module describes Elgo as considering herself a "famous explorer and avoider of fowl."
 

I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something off about this image.
The tower in the background is out of focus, as you would see in a photograph or digitally created 3D image (I'm pretty sure it's the latter). An actual painting would use aerial perspective, as in this image:
1670148975114.png
 


Libertad

Hero
vyfy2FA.jpg

Chapter 7: Siege of Kalaman

The final chapter of the book has a climactic showdown with the Dragon Army’s flying citadel as it moves across the horizon to besiege the city of Kalaman! Unlike prior chapters this one has a time limit when they enter the final dungeon. Once that happens. in three hours the citadel will reach Kalaman at which point it cannot be sabotaged lest it fall into and destroy the city.

*At which point they’ll reach level 11.

But first, once the party reunites with Darrett he will tell them to report to Marshal Vendri, and PCs who try to fly up to the citadel early on will be repelled by lesser death dragons. Once the PCs return and report, they will be grilled on the citadel’s nature and defenses, and once it becomes clear that they don’t have a surefire solution this will make her anxious. It won’t be long before word about the citadel spreads to Kalaman’s general population, and combined with the Red Dragon Army taking more and more territory this will cause panic to spread throughout the city. To set the scene there are various events the DM can use as set dressing, such as blacksmith shops running out of weapons and small crowds of refugees pleading to gate guards to be let through.

But Darrett has a plan! Clystran from Heart’s Hollow has arrived with a wasteland dragonnel, and based on his aerial scouting he spotted a series of tunnels lining the flying citadel’s underside which the PCs can use to infiltrate the fortress and find a way to destroy it. And since we have to raise the stakes, this plan of entry will be best done when it attacks Kalaman, for the Dragon Army will have the bulk of its attention directed towards the city’s defenses.

But before that happens, the PCs will take part in several encounters defending Kalaman’s walls from enemy scouts: they include any number of random encounters on a table involving draconians testing the defenses, such as shapeshifted sivak or dragonnel-riding bozaks. One involves a death dragon with a message hand-delivered to the PCs by Kansaldi Fire-Eyes talking about how she will bring about their end. The only mandatory encounter involves Lord Bakaris getting a letter from his son who defected to the Dragon Army, and decides to join him by raising one of the city gates with some fellow traitors to let several Dragon Army officers through.

After all of this, the PCs get one last long rest for the rest of the campaign, for the Battle of Kalaman will begin in earnest!

We get some more encounters as the Red Dragon Army’s ground forces attack attack the walls, with more random encounters with higher stakes: sivak draconians attacking ballistae the PCs need to defend/repair, dragonnel-riding officers throwing alchemist’s fire into the city, and auraks using dimension door to teleport next to and attack one of Kalaman’s officers. We have one more Warriors of Krynn scenario to play (Victory grants each dragonnel a PC is riding in the next encounter has advantage on the first attack or ability check). Once these are done, the PCs need to rendezvous with Clyrstran and the allied dragonnels via a gnomeflinger catapult, where they must fight alongside them against four red dragon wyrmlings in another Battlefield Encounter. The lair actions for this are pretty cool, including stray ballista shots, a blitzkrieg run of enemy dragonnels lighting fires on the ground, and the red dragons all recharging their breath weapons with a prayer to the Dragon Queen.

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PCs flying up to the Citadel will be let through if they’re disguised as Dragon Army soldiers or have some other means of avoiding attention, but otherwise they will be intercepted by a pair of dragonnel riders: Bakaris the Younger who uses typical Dragon Army Officer stats and Red Ruin, the commander of the aerial forces who has her own unique stat block. She is a lance-wielding heavy armor + shield fighter who has 2 out of 3 benefits of the Mounted Combatant feat (no advantage on melee vs unmounted). Her unique Ember Lance can deal 2d6 bonus fire damage and force prone a creature that fails a Strength saving throw, and also has a rechargeable Explosive Hand Crossbow which is basically a Fireball spell with lower range but increased damage. All in all a pretty cool battle with some nice weapons as loot, but can be easily bypassed by canny PCs.

Once they’re inside, the PCs need to find a way to destroy the flying citadel. It’s by far the longest dungeon crawl in the campaign, with 25 rooms split between the sublevels and the Bastion of Takhisis. The enemies here are light on draconians and heavy on undead, not all of which are hostile.

One “friendly” undead includes Lorry Wanwillow, a kender vampire who finds the idea of trespassers to be a fun change of pace from her boring unlife (she was sealed away in the City of Lost Names for 50 years by her former vampire master who couldn’t stand her nonstop talking), and can tell the PCs about the other creatures in the dungeon. PCs can also meet Leedara again at the entrance, where she warns them about Lord Soth who is in the Bastion above and is powerful to the point that they won’t be able to match him in typical combat. Soth is guarding the Cataclysmic fire from Kalaman’s catacombs, which is being used as fuel for the flying citadel, and if the PCs can find the Mirror of Reflected Pasts somewhere in the sub-levels they can use it to distract Soth and find a way to quench the flames. The mirror in question is inside a treasure vault behind a secret door which can open if the PCs figure out a rotating statue puzzle that opens doorways which it is facing. A Silvanesti spirit known as Cithcillion can reveal more about the mirror and how it works if they find the bones of his friends elsewhere in the dungeon and bring them back to him.

So what does the Mirror of Reflected Pasts do? Well when it’s activated it floats in the air and cannot be moved from that position, and those within 30 feet who look into it must make a Wisdom save or become paralyzed until the mirror is deactivated or they can no longer see their reflection.

The Bastion of Takhisis is comparatively short, making up 5 out of the 25 rooms, although it is home to Lord Soth and two of his more powerful minions who (thankfully) are initially fought separately. Caradoc makes a return in the possessed body of a Kalaman soldier, and over time has come to believe that Soth’s alliance with the Dragon Army is a bad idea and offers to ally with the PCs if they can grant him control of the flying citadel. Such a plan is doomed to failure (the helm required to control has to be attuned by a spellcaster), but he doesn’t know that.

The other minion is Wersten Kern, an undead former Knight who is Lord Soth’s most trusted champion. She has her own unique stat block where she attacks with a Banner Pike weapon that can impose a curse halving a target’s speed and imposing disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws. She also has a rechargeable attack where she recites the names of everyone slain by Lord Soth, imposing psychic damage and the frightened condition. If Lord Soth is still around he will join the battle after 3 rounds have passed.

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Much ado has been made about Lord Soth’s stats, as it was one of the first things revealed by those who got this book early, and specifically whether he was weak or a fair match for a CR 19 monster or even just for a level 11 party. Several have claimed that he’d be a cakewalk at this point in the campaign, which may be true if all the players are into CharOps and Soth was being fought in a white room scenario where the PCs have all of their spells, limited-use class features, and hit points at 100%. Between the many combat encounters between this and the siege of Kalaman, the possible aid of Wersten Kern, and him popping off a deadly ability such as banishment or Word of Death, most gaming groups are going to see at least one PC die or be taken out of commission when fighting him.

However, the PCs have an ace in the hole for this: if the Mirror of Reflected Pasts is deployed, Lord Soth will autofail the save, whispering the name “Isolde” as he stares into it. Furthermore, the PCs don’t have to kill Lord Soth in order to get him off their back. If the big brazier holding the Cataclysmic fire is extinguished, then he will vanish into a pit of darkness and never show up for the rest of the adventure. The fire can be destroyed via a multitude of ways: throwing a relic of a good-aligned deity into the flames such as a dragonlance (this can be figured out via an Insight or Religion check) or if the four scaffolding supports reinforcing the brazier are smashed apart.

And being a Load Bearing MacGuffin, the entire citadel will begin to slowly fall, forcing the PCs to escape. The DM can deploy one or more Scenes of Destruction to emphasize the race against time, from your standard falling rocks to fleeing baaz draconians falling into suddenly-appearing pits. The PCs will have to fight Karavarix, a greater death dragon and the dragon Sarlamir slain with the dragonlance. He believes one of the PCs to be Sarlamir and will fight to the death.

dSoOwQL.png


The PCs may have won the war, but what about the battle? Well after they land safe and sound, there is one more problem they must take care of: Kansaldi Fire-Eyes has vengeance in her heart, flying on the red dragon Ignia to kill the PCs. But not before giving an evil speech for one of the PCs to join her and burn the others alive as an “act of mercy.” if they send one of their own to be burned alive as both an example and “act of mercy” to the others.

Kansaldi is a heavy armor-wearing cleric with a variety of offensive spells, and can multiattack with her pike and thrown balls of flame. She has a glowing ruby in an eye socket that grants her truesight out to 120 feet, and can heal herself or an allied creature 17 hit points as a bonus action. As for Ignia, she has young red dragon stats but is Huge-sized. This is also a Battlefield Encounter, meaning we have cool features such as debris from the falling citadel as multitarget hazards, bozak reinforcements, exploding siege engines, a stampede of panicked dragonnels, and a one-time vision of Takhisis watching down from the clouds that can impose disadvantage on attacks and ability checks. But anyone wearing a good-aligned deity’s holy symbol gains inspiration instead as they’re protected from the Dragon Queen’s gaze.

We then get one last Warriors of Krynn scenario with some very nice rewards for a victory: a +3 shield or a Talisman of Pure Good if a good-aligned divine caster is within the party. Sadly, as this is the end of the campaign the PCs won’t get to use it unless the DM runs their own adventures afterwards. Celebrations are held, the dead are honored, and we get an epilogue for various surviving NPCs and what they are up to. For example, Darrett travels to the city of Malegoth in hopes of becoming a true Knight of Solamnia and Mayor Raven and the survivors of Vogler return to their hometown and start to rebuild.

But sometime later, the PCs are given a message from a mysterious figure, the letter sealed in blue wax bearing the Dragon Queen’s symbol:

Congratulations, heroes of Kalaman. I toast your bravery and daring. I could use audacious souls, such as yourselves, and will be watching your exploits with interest. Your city has escaped the Dragon Queen’s grasp today, but none can defy her will for long. I hope that when first we meet, it won’t be among Kalaman’s ruins.

The adventure doesn’t spell it out, but it’s Kitiara.

Thoughts So Far: I really like this chapter. The stakes are high, there’s quite a few challenges, the final battle is suitably climactic, the PCs can take some long-awaited satisfying revenge against at least one Bakaris, and having the PCs level up before entering the final dungeon rather than at the end of the campaign like some adventures do is a great idea. As 11th level brings a variety of cool features such as 6th level spells for primary casters and 3-6 attacks per round as a fighter, this is a better “end level” for a campaign than 10th.

My main criticism would be that Lord Soth takes up too much spotlight in comparison to the real leader of the Dragon Army forces. I get that Soth is fanservice for Dragonlance veterans, but I understand how Weis and Hickman felt when they were vehemently against WotC transporting him into Ravenloft. I feel that the true final battle should’ve been against Kansaldi Fire-Eyes in the room with the brazier, as a loss for the PCs then would spell out the doom of Kalaman. If the PCs lose against her in the typical adventure…well it’s sad that they died, but the flying citadel is irreversibly destroyed and Lord Soth has cut off ties with the Dragon Armies.

Appendices

The 5 appendices cover new material introduced in Shadow of the Dragon Queen. As I covered quite a few of these as they showed up during the adventure, this section is going to be rather brief.

Gear and Magic Items has a bit of gnome favoritism, as quite a few of the mundane items are the new gnomish devices and siege weapons. For the kender we get stats for the hoopak, which is basically a finesseable two-handed spear that can also be used as a sling with a longer range. The narycrash are gnomish parachutes which can be given to the PCs who express worries about the dangers of using a gnomeflinger at several points during the campaign. In true gnomish fashion Than and Rookledust genuinely won’t consider the danger in being flung unless the PCs bring it up. The only magic item we didn’t previously cover is the Flying Citadel Helm, which is an attunement-required wondrous item that grants control of a flying citadel. Basically you can move the citadel up to 80 feet per round and the wearer can see from the highest point outside the citadel at any time. Characters who are on the citadel or within 120 feet of its crash point take 39 bludgeoning damage, which at 11th level is pretty survivable.

Friends & Foes doesn’t include any creatures or NPCs we haven’t covered. It does have a 1d100 table of Dragon Army encounters the DM can use for times when PCs may run into a place under Dragon Army control. It’s your typical selection of evil human soldiers, draconians and monstrous humanoids, and some more unique encounters such as Caradoc and some skeletal knights on a mission to kidnap a noble Caradoc’s possessing or soldiers hunting for escaped prisoners with mastiffs.

Sidekicks gives us 6 DMPCs using the sidekick rules who can accompany the party on the adventure. Unlike Darrett or the death slaad none of them appear in the adventure by default, and it’s left to the DM’s discretion when and how they appear in the campaign. About half of them are spellcasters, including a human White Robe mage, a kender druid, and a dwarf war-priest of Kiri-Jolith. The other 3 DMPCs are more warrior-oriented, including a Khurish human archer…who doesn’t speak Khur, a human Solamnic knight who fights with a big sword and big armor and has Pack Tactics which makes her great to use alongside another melee-focused character, and a Kagonesti roguish type who fights with a poisoned dagger and is proficient in a wide variety of skills.

All of these characters have progression for their abilities beyond 2nd level, allowing for a painless process in leveling them up.

Story Concept Art & Maps are our final appendices, the former being a collection of rough sketches and notes. My favorite one is the draft of Kansaldi Fire-Eyes:
65FDN63.png


We only have 2 maps, 1 being the hexcrawl map of Kalaman and the Northern Wastes we saw earlier, and the other a map of Ansalon:

H70KTB4.png


Beautiful, just beautiful.

Final Thoughts: Shadow of the Dragon Queen has all the workings of an epic fantasy adventure. You have a clear overwhelming villain, you have artifacts of legend that can decide the fate of the free peoples of Ansalon, and the emphasis on the backdrop of a larger war is mechanically reinforced via Battlefield Encounters and integration with the Warriors of Krynn board game. The initial setting overview is rather bare, but WotC did a good job preserving much of what we recognize about Dragonlance while making some necessary changes in places. I did notice a pretty high number of female Knights of Solamnia (and former Knight in Wersten Kern’s case) as well as women warriors in general. In the original setting that organization was pretty patriarchal, and while in-universe the knighthood is acknowledged as clinging too much to outdated mores to its detriment I can understand this change. One because knights are a cool and attractive option for players, and two to avoid the inevitable arguments about “Female Space Marines.”

But with that being said, the adventure inherits the time-tested Dragonlance problem of narrow-minded adventures that don’t take into account the various twists and turns from likely methods of action by the PCs. There are also too many options that give the illusion of choice and consequences but don’t make a difference in the long run, which only adds to the problem. Additionally this is a bit of a personal taste, but the adventure accelerates at a rapid pace without much downtime. I can understand the rushed nature given the backdrop of an invasion, but it’s a recurring thing I see in quite a few WotC campaigns.

In spite of being set in Solamnia we hardly get any screen time for Solamnic Knights, and while the PCs do get a dragonlance they don’t get to wield it while riding an actual metallic dragon which was one of the highlights of the War of the Lance. The dragonnels feel like a compromise option, as canonically in this part of the story the metallics are in hiding and don’t want to tip their hand, but even in the original adventures the PCs can gain the aid of Silvara and get to do this when rescuing the good dragon eggs. We even have a bronze dragon in this adventure that can be used for such a purpose, maybe even tipping the scales (pun intended) against that black dragon in Camp Carrionclay.

But overall, these above problems don’t take away to the point that the bulk of the adventure is unusable. And I’m happy to see a Dragonlance product released, for this also means that the setting is opened up to the Dungeon Master’s Guild and already there’s some promising content in the works for it. I don’t know when or if I’ll review such products; I may veer over to Let’s Reading an entirely different line.

Even after its birth nearly 40 years ago, Dragonlance still stands the test of time. Here’s to 40 more!
 
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Davies

Legend
Thanks for helping me end my vacillation on whether to get this one. I think I'll wait a while longer ... and yeah, Kansaldi seems like she'd be a better final boss. They went to all this trouble to create a cool looking villain, and she gets upstaged by Darth Vader's non-union equivalent? No thanks.
 

Steel_Wind

Legend
Thanks for all of this (and to @darjr , too!).

I have my Session 0 for SotDQ for this coming Saturday and will commence the campaign on January 7. I am looking forward to it.

I also have asked for the Warriors of Krynn boardgame from my wife for Xmas (I will buy it myself otherwise) but am alarmed at the report that it may not be ready for distribution as a stand alone boxed game until March of 2023. I hope this is not the case, as I would like the opportinity to try it out and integrate it into my campaigns. Time will tell if it appears at retail .

The interesting thing about all of this is that I have been a huge fan of DragonLance over the years -- and a frustrated wannabe DL DM. I have stripped various parts of the modules from time to time for use in other campaigns over the years, but I have never actually run the DL Classic campaign. The novels ruined the potential at the time, detailing too much from DL1 and DL2 for most players to be able to get by -- so all of my players over the many intervening years have always expressed a strong disinterest in playing it. A few continue to express hostility - but I do think I have a group of 5 or 6 which are prepared to take the plunge into the classic DL campaign in the spring of 2023. So I may get the chance to run the first true Adv Path for AD&D (no, A1-4 and GDQ1-7 do not count) only 39 years after the fact, more or less!
 

pukunui

Legend
My main criticism would be that Lord Soth takes up too much spotlight in comparison to the real leader of the Dragon Army forces. I get that Soth is fanservice for Dragonlance veterans, but I understand how Weis and Hickman felt when they were vehemently against WotC transporting him into Ravenloft. I feel that the true final battle should’ve been against Kansaldi Fire-Eyes in the room with the brazier, as a loss for the PCs then would spell out the doom of Kalaman. If the PCs lose against her in the typical adventure…well it’s sad that they died, but the flying citadel is irreversibly destroyed and Lord Soth has cut off ties with the Dragon Armies.​
Yeah, there does seem to be a bit of a bait-and-switch going on here, with Lord Soth being built up as the ultimate BBEG only for the adventure to go "No, sorry, he's too powerful for your PCs and he needs to survive to do stuff later so here's the actual BBEG right at the end."

I note that Bakaris the Younger's fate is ambiguous, such that if the PCs succeed in defeating him, he can still conveniently survive to become Kitiara's 2ic later on.

Sidekicks gives us 6 DMPCs using the sidekick rules who can accompany the party on the adventure. Unlike Darrett or the death slaad none of them appear in the adventure by default, and it’s left to the DM’s discretion when and how they appear in the campaign. About half of them are spellcasters, including a human White Robe mage, a kender druid, and a dwarf war-priest of Kiri-Jolith. The other 3 DMPCs are more warrior-oriented, including a Khurish human archer…who doesn’t speak Khur, a human Solamnic knight who fights with a big sword and big armor and has Pack Tactics which makes her great to use alongside another melee-focused character, and a Kagonesti roguish type who fights with a poisoned dagger and is proficient in a wide variety of skills.​
Incidentally, these sidekicks are the characters from the board game.


The interesting thing about all of this is that I have been a huge fan of DragonLance over the years -- and a frustrated wannabe DL DM. I have stripped various parts of the modules from time to time for use in other campaigns over the years, but I have never actually run the DL Classic campaign. The novels ruined the potential at the time, detailing too much from DL1 and DL2 for most players to be able to get by -- so all of my players over the many intervening years have always expressed a strong disinterest in playing it. A few continue to express hostility - but I do think I have a group of 5 or 6 which are prepared to take the plunge into the classic DL campaign in the spring of 2023. So I may get the chance to run the first true Adv Path for AD&D (no, A1-4 and GDQ1-7 do not count) only 39 years after the fact, more or less!
Are they worth running? I've only ever heard that they're horribly railroady but I have a sudden hankering to give them a try oddly enough.
 

Thanks for helping me end my vacillation on whether to get this one. I think I'll wait a while longer ... and yeah, Kansaldi seems like she'd be a better final boss. They went to all this trouble to create a cool looking villain, and she gets upstaged by Darth Vader's non-union equivalent? No thanks.
Kansaldi not actually new, though I don’t think she ever got art.
 

Steel_Wind

Legend
Yeah, there does seem to be a bit of a bait-and-switch going on here, with Lord Soth being built up as the ultimate BBEG only for the adventure to go "No, sorry, he's too powerful for your PCs and he needs to survive to do stuff later so here's the actual BBEG right at the end."

I note that Bakaris the Younger's fate is ambiguous, such that if the PCs succeed in defeating him, he can still conveniently survive to become Kitiara's 2ic later on.


Incidentally, these sidekicks are the characters from the board game.



Are they worth running? I've only ever heard that they're horribly railroady but I have a sudden hankering to give them a try oddly enough.
Some are worse than others. DL1 is the one that is the worst for this, and it continues in DL2. It gets much better after that.

It's not perfect by any means. I think it is possible to add to DL1 (a lot, actually) to make the whole thing flow very differently -- and reasonably, too. The stuff where NPCs march the characters to the Forest Master at arrow point is just heavy-handed nonsense. You can get around that easily. The most important thing is to put two concepts together:

1 - Add stuff: Add a LOT of stuff and leave it up to your players which way they go: You can add an entire lengthy chapter to Haven, in particular, that makes everything seem utterly and totally different (for the good reason that it will be) and have the PCs escape the Lord City by riverboat -- which leads them pretty much where you want them. You can also add elements to the Que-Teh, Que-Shu and Que-Kiri -principally as prisoners to be rescued from a camp (think something like the Raider's Camp in HotDQ) and change the feel of DL1 completely.

2 - Free Your Mind: This is the hardest part, to be honest. The impetus for both the DM and the players to remake scenes from the novel is what needs to change. These are not design elements of the module as much as they are mental chains that all people involved need to shed. It can be hard. But when combined with adding new elements to the module, it works the best I think (I did run a re-worked version of DL1 summer before last for my family during Covid). That certainly seems to be the after campaign reports from those who have done it successfully.

The biggest issue with the perceived railroady nature of things is that for both DMs and players, the existing module elements that are railroady (and there are some elements, especially in DL1 that no modern designer would ever write now) can largely be addressed with modest consistent changes. It's just a matter of making some design choices to remove those more offensive elements. Not a big deal, really. Traditional XP points would turn this approach into an arithmetical impossibility - but milestone levelling fixes all of that with a wave of your hand and a POOF of magic dust. Long rest - and even short rest - healing rules for 5e, when combined with the powers of the Staff of Mishakal allow a reasonable party of 4-6 PCs in 5e to have the resources to survive all of this in a way that a party pf PCs could not easily do under 3.x or PF1.

The later elements of the campaign are really cool modules though -- and they have for the most part, never been spoiled in novel form. They can benefit from some design changes and updating the maps (for VTT play) and encounters - but they are very worthwhile playing. There were some really great authors and designers in TSR in the mid-80s. The largest amount of time and money that TSR devoted in its heyday in the 80s was to DragonLance -- and it still shows. The artwork was outstanding and the maps remain phenomenal. The premise is still cool AF. But in order to get there, you have to pass through the initial gauntlet of DL1 and DL2 - and that's hard for many to do.

The biggest challenge is getting through DL1 and DL2 with a group of players who are engaged and want to play. After that? It's easy peasy. And totally worthwhile.

By way of my own assessment after reading SotDQ - does it look like it will be fun? Sure. I look forward to running it, admittedly after several changes of my own that I will make to it.

Does SotDQ look like it will be as great and sweeping as the original classic modules? No, Hell No, even. The DL Classic campaign is still the best form to consume the War of the Lance - you just need to approach it (re)visiting that with great care.
 
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Libertad

Hero
Does SotDQ look like it will be as great and sweeping as the original classic modules? No, Hell No, even. The DL Classic campaign is still the best form to consume the War of the Lance - you just need to approach it (re)visiting that with great care.

Shadow of the Dragon Queen is more tightly-focused in that the PCs are fighting primarily for one region and community. The original Chronicles were showing off a whole new world, so the PCs would go traveling all over Ansalon to see the War of the Lance from different angles.

It's still rather amusing in juxtaposing the power creep. In SotDQ the PCs went from 1st to 11th level pretty quickly, whereas in the Chronicles they went from 5th to 14th level (give or take a few depending on Edition) in a little under the year.
 

Steel_Wind

Legend
Shadow of the Dragon Queen is more tightly-focused in that the PCs are fighting primarily for one region and community. The original Chronicles were showing off a whole new world, so the PCs would go traveling all over Ansalon to see the War of the Lance from different angles.

It's still rather amusing in juxtaposing the power creep. In SotDQ the PCs went from 1st to 11th level pretty quickly, whereas in the Chronicles they went from 5th to 14th level (give or take a few depending on Edition) in a little under the year.
Quite true. That's a function of age-groups of target markets as much as anything though - and we have seen that change from 2E through 3.x, PF1/2, 4e, and 5e. The rules reflect the changes -- and ages -- in the player base.

I started playing in 1979-80 and through the early 80s, we played several times a week. I remember in high school we often had 24 hour game sessions where we stayed up for that long just playing 1st ed. No responsibilities? No problem!

40+ years later, I run 2 campaigns, each every other week. Even when running PF Adv Paths, most of those campaigns took about 2 years to finish; from 1st to ~14th+ level. Some took more, much more. As a player, I played every other Friday night for ~3 hour sessions. It took 6 years in RL for us to finish Iron Gods, from 1st to 18th level. (For the record - that was WAY to effin long! Most of us couldn't wait for that damn campaign to finish!)

Modern play requires faster levelling to suit the tastes of most players. We are simply older and we have less time to play. The nice thing is, milestone levelling also means we can stop and smell the roses for as long as is required without the power balance getting out of whack. Go as fast - or as slow - as you reasonably need to go.
 
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