D&D General The importance of Dragonlance


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Helena Real

Dame of Solamnia
Dragonlance was—and is—immensely important to me on a personal level as well. I've written extensively in the past about how I consider it one of the cornerstones of my life, and how it taught me—and still does—with every adventure that I run set in it and each short story I (re)read how to create and present a vivid and believable fantasy world.

I'm really excited about the new novels and the WotC books later this year. I hope they're the start of a “renaissance” of the setting, with a lot of people reading about its amazing history and exploring ot through their own characters and adventures. It's a great time to be a Dragonlance fan, I think.

Long live the Lance! 😁
 


Yora

Legend
Dragonlance changed RPGs forever.

Unfortunately, I think for the worse. Obviously it's impossible to even imagine where we might be now if Dragonlance had never been a thing. But I believe this is where the whole idea of RPG adventures being stories told by the GM to the player really kicks off. I've yet to hear from anyone who thinks the modules were anything but bad, but still this became the default template for what adventures should be. Railroading with no player agency. And RPGs have never recovered from it.
Though what the RPG market would look today without it is impossible to say. They could very well have faded into obscurity again and barely remembered for ever having been a thing now.
 


Zardnaar

Legend
Dragonlance changed RPGs forever.

Unfortunately, I think for the worse. Obviously it's impossible to even imagine where we might be now if Dragonlance had never been a thing. But I believe this is where the whole idea of RPG adventures being stories told by the GM to the player really kicks off. I've yet to hear from anyone who thinks the modules were anything but bad, but still this became the default template for what adventures should be. Railroading with no player agency. And RPGs have never recovered from it.
Though what the RPG market would look today without it is impossible to say. They could very well have faded into obscurity again and barely remembered for ever having been a thing now.

The heavily railroaded adventures phase died out circa 1995 and they went back to older style formats.

They still turn up occasionally but no long term harm imho.

Early examples of modern APs started turning up around then as well.
 

Aldarc

Legend
You never had a favorite toy or car or book or tv show or movie or song or hat etc etc you might feel “protective” over? Perhaps something that literally changed your life?

If so consider that someone might have similar feelings like that over something different.
Sure, but as I grew older (and hopefully wiser) I realized how unnecessary that attitude or feeling was for me. There was no need for me to protect an IP. Not everything involving that IP is meant for my personal consumption. I am not entitled to the IP. My protectiveness was also potentially off-putting for others who were interested in the fandom and contributing to a toxic environment. Likewise, whipping myself up into a furor over it risked a lot of self harm. I embraced the reality that these IPs will change and evolve over time. I will like some iterations and dislike others, and that's fine. IMHO, however, being "protective" over something, whether that is Dragonlance or some other IP, should never require becoming toxic. I lose sympathy for those who choose to cross that line.

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If only we all genuinely listend to such advice during the Edition Wars...
 

Sure, but as I grew older (and hopefully wiser) I realized how unnecessary that attitude or feeling was for me. There was no need for me to protect an IP. Not everything involving that IP is meant for my personal consumption. I am not entitled to the IP. My protectiveness was also potentially off-putting for others who were interested in the fandom and contributing to a toxic environment. Likewise, whipping myself up into a furor over it risked a lot of self harm. I embraced the reality that these IPs will change and evolve over time. I will like some iterations and dislike others, and that's fine. IMHO, however, being "protective" over something, whether that is Dragonlance or some other IP, should never require becoming toxic. I lose sympathy for those who choose to cross that line.


If only we all genuinely listend to such advice during the Edition Wars...
Thank goodness no one is being toxic in this discussion (yet).
 

eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
Dragonlance changed RPGs forever.

Unfortunately, I think for the worse. Obviously it's impossible to even imagine where we might be now if Dragonlance had never been a thing. But I believe this is where the whole idea of RPG adventures being stories told by the GM to the player really kicks off. I've yet to hear from anyone who thinks the modules were anything but bad, but still this became the default template for what adventures should be. Railroading with no player agency. And RPGs have never recovered from it.
Though what the RPG market would look today without it is impossible to say. They could very well have faded into obscurity again and barely remembered for ever having been a thing now.
I agree.

While I appreciate some things about Dragonlance (I think the Heroes of the Lance boxed set was one of TSR's best) its publishing was basically the impetus from changing from location based adventures to heavily railroaded ones. The Dragonlance modules themselves are so inflexible that basically, if you aren't playing the characters from the books and following the steps exactly you're playing it wrong.

Talking about the original three novels though, is a bit different. I think they were greatly aided by being there early on. Much like the Shannara books, which were heavily popular around then. Similar to many of the Shannara books those original Dragonlance books don't really hold up much to contemporary scrutiny. I let somebody borrow the original three books a couple years ago and they couldn't get through even the first one because they thought it was "too cheesy, schmaltzy and cringey". And yeah, with a fresh set of 2022 eyes, I can see why that might be.

To me, Dragonlance is in a weird place where the "importance" of it is so intrinsically tied to the saga of the original Heroes of the Lance that moving away from that, limits its appeal. I mean, removing the narrative -as a game setting- what does Krynn offer over say, Greyhawk, FR, Mystara etc? I would argue all of those and more are better pure settings.

Please like what you like, I'm not telling you you're wrong. I'm just saying, that in my opinion, this was much more of a right time right place sort of deal rather than a genius work on every level.

Except that, if you like Kender, you are objectively wrong and just like the worst person.
 
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Sure, but as I grew older (and hopefully wiser) I realized how unnecessary that attitude or feeling was for me. There was no need for me to protect an IP. Not everything involving that IP is meant for my personal consumption. I am not entitled to the IP. My protectiveness was also potentially off-putting for others who were interested in the fandom and contributing to a toxic environment. Likewise, whipping myself up into a furor over it risked a lot of self harm. I embraced the reality that these IPs will change and evolve over time. I will like some iterations and dislike others, and that's fine. IMHO, however, being "protective" over something, whether that is Dragonlance or some other IP, should never require becoming toxic. I lose sympathy for those who choose to cross that line.
Yeah this.

There are certainly IPs I don't want to see something bad happen to, but what I've realized as I've got older, is that in most cases, whilst this might be worth making cynical jokes and waggling your eyebrows about, it's not worth it, nor helpful to gatekeep or "shut people down" or whatever if they have different ideas, or if those things are done in different ways.

Sometimes it can be worth pointing out when someone literally doesn't understand a setting/book/film on a pretty basic, but frankly, that's about as common with people who are "protective" of stuff as those who are expressing different opinions. Like if someone is trying to tell you that LotR is pro-war, it might be worth explaining to them that they might misunderstand or be looking at superficial aspects, but it's not helpful to say they're like, "not a real fan" or something.

I mean, Planescape is one for me, I don't want to see it messed up. But the reality is, in 1998, it got messed up (THANKS MONTE!), and like, if it stays messed up, whilst that sucks, that's just how it is. If they make a new version that's terrible and just ignores what made the original Planescape special/unusual (I give good odds of this), well, I may well say "lol awful" and critique it at the time, but I'm not going to go around saying people who like it suck or whatever. Indeed at this point really there's like a clock on any IP one likes because sooner or later "corporate" probably is going to destroy what you liked about it.

Sometimes they turn it around though, too, like with the Spider-Man movies. I know a number of er... Spider-Fans, none of the rabid, thankfully, but who were kind of not-enthused with Homecoming and Far From Home, because Spider-Man was almost Robin to Iron Man's Batman, given wealth and access to awesome equipment/power armour/armies of killer drones/etc., and a lot of classic Spider-Man stuff was just missing (Uncle Ben and his lesson, or having to have a job and try to make ends meet, for example), which gave this Spider-Man a very different character. Without going into spoilers, No Way Home fixed all of that, and by the end, had a Spider-Man we could recognise as Spider-Man (and one a bit more relevant to most people's lived experience I daresay).


Re: Dragonlance I feel like it one of the big issues is a generation gap. Very few people under 40 seem to have read any DL novels, or really experienced anything DL-related. This, I would suggest, is simply because so much good fantasy has been published post-DL, especially post-2000. Fantasy that tends to be more relevant-feeling and relatable than the fantasy of the '80s and before. This hasn't just hit DL of course - an awful lot of '80s and earlier fantasy writers who had major impacts on D&D are all but forgotten. Michael Moorcock is one of the all-time great fantasy writers and also had a big influence on D&D (and fantasy in general), and is perhaps even more overlooked than Dragonlance is, now. The later books by Hickman/Weis certainly haven't helped this, because they've been very much a continuing and increasingly bizarre saga that doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless you're already into DL. Possibly the new book will break this cycle but I'd be surprised.


EDIT - I will say there is a peculiar modern kind of "IP-fan-ism" that's a big annoyance on the internet which is not talked about much, which is the fan who is a fan of the broader IP itself come hell or high water, and who will try to gatekeep anyone who criticises any part of the IP too harshly. These guys were incredibly rare pre-2010, but the MCU particularly seems to have brought them out of the woodwork. With the MCU, they're fans of "The MCU", not so much individual movies/characters/etc. which they may also like, but ultimately their loyalty and fan-ness is directed towards the MCU and Disney/Marvel. So if you don't like an MCU movie, either because it's not very good, or it presents existing Marvel characters really weirdly (c.f. Spider-Man example earlier), they will attempt to gatekeep the hell out of you, often in a slightly lunatic way. The flipside of them is that sometimes they'll decide a movie or whatever "doesn't fit" with the IP they're obsessed with, and will try to gatekeep anyone who doesn't like it, on bizarre grounds like "It's not what corporate wanted" or "It doesn't fit with the rest of the IP", and thus you aren't allowed to like it. I feel like you sometimes see a version of them with RPGs, usually they're a fan of a specific edition, or a specific company. There's also a "gentle" version who doesn't gatekeep but never, ever, ever, ever, has any serious criticism of a specific IP/company - I think you see these a bit with 5E, where you get well-meaning, good-natured people who aren't gatekeepers but they do reviews, say, and no 5E WotC product has ever got worse than 80% or a B or whatever.
 
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While I appreciate some things about Dragonlance (I think the Heroes of the Lance boxed set was one of TSR's best) its publishing was basically the impetus from changing from location based adventures to heavily railroaded ones. The Dragonlance modules themselves are so inflexible that basically, if you aren't playing the characters from the books and following the steps exactly you're playing it wrong.
Yeah, you read through the old DL modules, or even the 3e conversions, and they're SERIOUSLY out of whack with what you'd expect from a modern module. Railroads have been a thing since modules were first invented, but DL brought it to quite a new level by actually having rules to rig it so that important bad guys couldn't die before their appointed time, and actually letting the plot rather than the players dictate what PC the players were playing.

Still, i think they were ... necessary. They brought an aspect of storytelling and character-driven plot into the game that was way beyond anything that had ever been before. They overdid it, sure. But it's the old story of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. They were a reaction to the old purely location-driven dungeons, and the bridge between them and the more modern and flexible sandboxes with the overarching plot.

DL was never quite my thing. The whole Romantic High Fantasy Good Versus Evil With Capital Letters thing never quite worked for someone who only read the DL novels in the second half of the 90s after thoroughly burning out on sub-Tolkien Dark Lord fiction trilogies for most of the previous decade. Still, having said that, I do get the attraction, and if my DM decided to run Dragonlance, I'd be all over it, even if it wouldn't be my first choice and probably not the game I'd personally choose to run.
 
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Chris Currie

Explorer
I really liked the first novels, but i have less positive views of the actual game line. Only read the first 3 books, and had no idea there was over 200!
 

Similar to many of the Shannara books those original Dragonlance books don't really hold up much to contemporary scrutiny. I let somebody borrow the original three books a couple years ago and they couldn't get through even the first one because they thought it was "too cheesy, schmaltzy and cringey". And yeah, with a fresh set of 2022 eyes, I can see why that might be.
I mean, I think the change happened a long time ago, because I remember my reaction to the Shannara books. I bought the first two (I think) in 1993, when I was 15 (I'd read the DL books at 12-13). People had recommended the Shannara books as "classic fantasy", so I was expecting something good, and I slogged through the first book, very much nonplussed (though I did like the cyborg rhino or whatever it was), and by part-way through the second book, I'd decided they were a bunch of cheesy nonsense and none of the characters seemed at all like believable or relatable people, let alone people in the situations described (nor were they particularly alien, unlike, say Elric), which was distinct from, say LotR (Frodo is a freak but you can see where he's coming from and his reactions to stuff make emotional sense for the most part). I ended up leaving the books on a bench at a regional airport somewhere in the US, in case someone else liked them better.

(I wasn't raised to be able to throw a book in a bin, I still struggle to do so.)
 

eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
I mean, I think the change happened a long time ago, because I remember my reaction to the Shannara books. I bought the first two (I think) in 1993, when I was 15 (I'd read the DL books at 12-13). People had recommended the Shannara books as "classic fantasy", so I was expecting something good, and I slogged through the first book, very much nonplussed (though I did like the cyborg rhino or whatever it was), and by part-way through the second book, I'd decided they were a bunch of cheesy nonsense and none of the characters seemed at all like believable or relatable people, let alone people in the situations described (nor were they particularly alien, unlike, say Elric), which was distinct from, say LotR (Frodo is a freak but you can see where he's coming from and his reactions to stuff make emotional sense for the most part). I ended up leaving the books on a bench at a regional airport somewhere in the US, in case someone else liked them better.
Hey, Shannara's not all bad. Without it we wouldn't have seen elfs on TV in H&M hoodies.
 




Yeah, I have to say whilst both are very attractive rugged guys, those are not two actors I would ever mistake for each other. Joe is like, er, quite a lot taller/broader than Manu (6'4" vs 5'11").

However both of them have played Deathstroke from DC, so there is that. Perhaps with both of them and Esai Morales (who has some similar features to both) in the mix one might get confused.
I mean, Flash Thompson from Spider-man (2002).
Respect for the deep cut on remembering this, I didn't realize it was him until I saw the Honest Trailer for No Way Home a few weeks ago.
 

My entirely speculative assumption based on TSR practices of the time is that they sold very well, but that they still printed too many of them.

I do wonder how the DL modules sold compared to those early classics. Which sold in truly huge numbers.

I'm still annoyed that The Hobbit went with CGI motion capture for Azog and didn't give us Manu Bennett playing the character on set, physically. That same trend towards excess (it's like, how much more imposing do you need Bennett to be?) is one of the things that frequently works against the movies.


Like most, I discovered Dragonlance at the perfect age. I'll readily admit I wear some thick rose-colored glasses in regards to it. At the same time, as an adult, I can easily see the things that are badly in need of updating. But I still love it and am so excited for the setting's return later this year.
 


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