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

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
Having a read through this with an eye to running it too. I'm more a fan of the start of the campaign than the end, it has to be said.

Modification to the first chapter - the initial letter from Becklin kicking things off will actually talk about how Ispin was injured in a hunting accident and is not expected to survive, and that she encourages the PCs to visit him before his death. He will die before the PCs arrive. She'll then explain how he'd gone out to investigate farmers' stories of a large creature to the west of town, and been badly mauled. She can't go out to investigate herself (an ancestor of hers neglected his duty in favour of a hunting trip one time, with tragic consequences, and now her entire lineage of Knights takes an oath never to indulge in hunting...) but the PCs can. It turns out the creature responsible is a giant boar (possibly beefed up a bit depending on party size). It killed a draconian a few days ago (in self-defence) but got a faceful of acid in the process and is mad with pain. PCs can kill it, or calm it down via Animal Handling etc and magically cure it.

The point of this is twofold. First is to add an additional combat (other than the prelude draconians) in the very early parts of the campaign. If your PCs are into roleplaying and smelling the roses, they could spend a LOT of time wandering around Vogler playing fishing games and making up tall stories about Ispin, and making friends among the locals. (And this is a GOOD thing, because it lets you genuinely reward the PCs for (for example) clearing kapaks off the cliff face by letting them rescue NPCs they've become fond of, which gives these encounters stakes.) The boar gives the combat wombat players something to fight in the meantime. Also, it rubs in a bit about the themes. Becklin is a good knight but is still hamstrung by her oaths. And both the boar and Ispin really emphasise the rarity of healing magic, and how much of a Big Deal it is that the PCs have a true cleric/paladin/druid with them and the gods are coming back.

As for the rest ... hmm. It's a mixed bag. I don't like the structure, in which the final climatic combat of the campaign is against someone the PCs have never met, and probably never even seen. It's appropriate to a war campaign that you don't know your enemies very well, but I'm not sure it's appropriate to a Dragonlance campaign which runs on interpersonal melodrama, hate, and betrayal. I don't really like the emphasis on Soth when he's really only a misdirect and the PCs don't get to properly fight him. Same with Bahkaris and Dalamar, it seems like a few canon novel DL NPCs were included here as easter eggs, but if you're in the business of respecting DL canon, then you kind of have to account for the possibility that PCs will kill Bakharis, for instance (and he's awful - you know they'll try). Most of the dragons the PCs fight will be death dragons, this seems like a bit of a misplay given Takhisis has all these iconic chromatic dragons just raring to go. The northern wastes part of the adventure hands out a lot of monetary treasure the PCs will have trouble spending in war-panicked Kalaman. Unless you bring back Besklin, there not really any LIVE Solamnic knights in here for the PCs to interact with or be knighted by, once their deeds merit it. Becklin makes sure that Darrett gets his armour, who does this for PC knights? Also, we spend the entire campaign in one quite small corner of Krynn. The module provides a way of handwaving the Test of High Sorcery for PCs given they'll be going nowhere near the Tower of High Sorcery, but there's also precious little space for for iconic Dragonlance imagery and concepts like the elven nations, or the Plainspeople, or the politicking and infighting among the Solamnic Knights, or even the friction between different dwarf clans. Any PC with any of this stuff built into their backgrounds is likely going to be disappointed.

I love the creepy set-piece where wearied and beaten PCs return from Silver Springs and rejoince that the Solamnic Knights have arrived, only to have the slow awful turnaround when they realise the knights are Soth's undead and the Kalaman council lies slaughtered. I like Leedara, and as a recurring NPC she's got some great potential, especially for a PC who wants a very-Dragonlance-y doomed romance plot. Wheelwatch is a nice set-piece, even though I'm not in fond of the concept of dragonnels. The imagery of the flying city advancing on Kalaman is great.

So, what to do?

Honestly, I'm caught. The module can't quite decide whether to have a death knight theme or a dragon theme, tries to split the middle, and succeeds entirely in neither. The undead have some of the best moments in the campaign, post-Vogler, but this takes the focus off the Dragonarmies (and the module skates over why Soth even involves himself in the War at this stage, he never had allegiance to Takhisis at all, he's got no dog in this fight). I'd be tempted to take the campaign completely off-track from the Northern Wastes, and perhaps send the PCs haring around Krynn looking for Nezrah's other eggs (or possibly more data for Dalamar's calculations), which would let them see more of the world (especially the PC-background-relevant bits) and gain a few levels before coming back to Kalaman when they're high enough level to actually fight in a proper dragon war.

Hmm, actually, if I was doing a DL campaign, the end-game goal might be to infiltrate the fortress where dragon eggs are being corrupted to spawn draconians, and to destroy some sort of magic McGuffin that binds the draconians thus created to the will of Takhisis. Basically, give them back their free will (Nezrah could drive this, she wants ALL her children back, even the ones that have been mutilated and brainwashed into serving the dragon armies!) And achieving that would be a big deal when it came to winning the war, you can't put knowledge of the draconian-creating ritual back in the bottle, but you can undermine its usefulness. And it wouldn't interfere with novel canon, to the best of my knowledge (my prospective players WOULD care about this).

Though I'd still want to use the death knights somehow. That's kind of an dilemma there. If you use a different death knight to Soth, he comes across as a pale imitation. If you do use Soth, you have all sorts of canon-compliance problems to explain why he gives a damn about any of this stuff, and to deal with what happens if the PCs end up fighting the guy and somehow manage to win.

For the purposes of running this campaign, is it important to worry about Dragonlance canon and not letting, for example, a Bakharis get killed? If so, why?
 

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pukunui

Legend
For the purposes of running this campaign, is it important to worry about Dragonlance canon and not letting, for example, a Bakharis get killed? If so, why?
Not really. The Bakharis from the Chronicles could just be another guy with the same name. Or he could be the same Bakharis who got raised from the dead. (Or who somehow managed to cheat the death that the PCs gave him, depending on the circumstances.)
 

For the purposes of running this campaign, is it important to worry about Dragonlance canon and not letting, for example, a Bakharis get killed? If so, why?
In isolation, for the pure purposes of this particular campaign, it doesn’t matter at all. If you have players who genuinely care about Dragonlance canon, as I am likely to, it definitely does.
 

In isolation, for the pure purposes of this particular campaign, it doesn’t matter at all. If you have players who genuinely care about Dragonlance canon, as I am likely to, it definitely does.
Of course, the original Dragonlance modules had rules for this, that if an NPC important to the plot was killed, they would actually somehow survive (the good ol' "we never saw the body" plot) so they could show up later.
 

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