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Thread: Starting 1st Ed. DragonLance Saga, comparing to The Lord of the Rings

  1. #1

    Default Starting 1st Ed. DragonLance Saga, comparing to The Lord of the Rings

    Starting the day after tomorrow at 10 p.m., I shall be livestreaming an AD&D DragonLance campaign beginning with DL 1: Dragons of Despair. In addition to the traditional goals of such a campaign (such as having fun), I shall be making and inviting comparison between it and the works of Tolkien as well as noting some of the many influences which DL has had on modern fantasy in general. In this endeavour I apparently have the blessing of Ms. Weis herself (http://www.dragonlanceforums.com/sho...r-you!/page301)

    I post here for two reasons:

    1. I still have room for a few more players. The campaign thusfar has two original characters (a Thief who may become an Acrobat and a Barbarian from an original tribe of the Plains of Dust, as Unearthed Arcana rules are also being used) and a player for Sturm Brightblade. Additional original characters are acceptable, though I would prefer it if new players chose to play one of the remaining Heroes of the Lance (ie. Tanis, Tasslehoff, Caramon, Flint, or Raistlin (Goldmoon is also a PC, but isn't playable at the onset of the adventure). You may contact me via Skype (my name is princesshart4christ) or simply play via comments in the Twitch chat.

    2. In tribute to Margaret Weis (whose favourite fantasy work is The Lord of the Rings if I am not misinformed) and to those Sisters of the Order with which I am affiliated who are huge Rings fans, I am endeavouring to season the campaign with a bit of Tolkienesque flavour, and am curious as to whether anyone here has any suggestions as to how I might approach this. I have some ideas of my own, but would like to read your input.

    In any case, you shall find me streaming on Tuesdays and Thursdays at https://www.twitch.tv/maidenpaladin with lots of miniatures.
    Last edited by PrincessLaurana; 02-19-2017 at 03:14 PM.

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    The first thing that comes to mind is that Tolkien’s epics always have the “victory conditions” laid out from the beginning. This plot serves as the trunk of the story, while lesser plots branch off (Frodo/Sam inexorably march towards Mount Doom while Aragorn/Gimli and Gandalf/Pippin split off into side quests). DL is more episodic; the goal-posts change constantly. To make it more Tolkienesque, you could go to DL13 or DL14 and decide on victory conditions (there are six possible ones) and lay them out pretty early on in the campaign. For example, if you were to go with the classic “Everman” plot from the novels, then the Everman should be a member of the party right from the beginning, and all his actions should be geared towards getting to Neraka (though obviously getting swept up in other matters along the way). Another character should be destined to be the Golden General, perhaps.

  3. #3

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    Falconer, I very much like the way you think (and your avy; I still have that card from the 1996 Middle Earth CCG). DL14 was actually the first adventure in the series which I purchased (way back in 1999) and thus I am familiar with the six possibilities. The Everman scenario is very LotR-esque; my concern however is that it is perhaps too obviously so to spring on my players at the beginning. Nevertheless, I quite like your suggestion as to having him with the party from the beginning, and I think I know just the way to make that work....

    Laurana as Golden General can still work, I think, as she does at least first appear in DL 2 (which somewhat mirrors Aragorn's first appearance in Bree; fairly early on yet still many pages into the book). Following the events in the original '80s trilogy would also allow for another PC to potentially take over for her later.

    DL 1 is quite episodic; at the beginning one would well consider the grand campaign-spanning MacGuffin to be the Blue Crystal Staff! One of the ways I have to get around this is through Fizban, who will be a bit more of a Gandalf-esque character, albeit with far more emphasis on humour and eccentricities!

    Thank you very much for your comments! <3

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    Thanks! Though I would say that Fizban already is “funny Gandalf.” Not sure how it could possibly be more explicit!

    DL has a lot of mixed messages with regard to morality. Sometimes it ends up preaching a confusing “balance is best” position, which leads to some pretty weird corollaries, eg., too much good leads to intolerance (??). Stick to what makes sense, like, evil turns in upon itself; evil can not create. Remember that the humans in Takhisis’s service are slaves and pawns—Ember controls Verminaard, etc. Her ultimate goal is to eradicate elves and humans from the face of Krynn. She would love for everyone to believe that it is a war of Man against Man, but it is in fact Man against Dragon (i.e., demonic forces of pure evil). She only needs Humans’ help temporarily, to find the Green Gemstone Man. Redeemable Orcs was not a theme in Tolkien; neither should Redeemable Draconians be, here. In this story, they are not metaphorical humans but just monsters. An attack by monsters is, if anything, a metaphor for the spiritual struggle.

    I wouldn’t use most of DLA rules, but consider dropping the AD&D 9-slot alignment system in favor of a linear Corruption mechanic as suggested there. Just start the PCs as 100% good, and let evil actions, unatoned for, slide them towards evil. If they fall over a certain threshold of evil, they become a NPC. This is not only obviously more Tolkienesque, it also makes great practical sense for DL. Then things like the Kingpriest’s hubris or the elves’ tribalism need no longer be explained as symptoms of too much good because you no longer have to slot them as exemplars of good.

    ETA: With regard to the evil gods other than Takhisis, they may or may not come up at all, and it’s certainly fine if they don’t. But if they do, there are two ways of treating them. #1 would be as functionally Takhisis’s servants; her inner court of Maiar, if you will; a cleric of any of them is ultimately really a cleric of Takhisis. #2 would be that Takhisis is the ONLY god in rebellion; that is, Chemosh and Sargonnas and Zeboim are more like Mandos and Makar and Ossë; basically members in good standing of a functioning everyone-except-Takhisis pantheon. If I were going for a Tolkienesque vibe, I would emphasize a view closer to #2. This also contributes to the pristine “Dragons making war on this world of Krynn” angle (because her dragons then remain her inner circle).
    Last edited by Falconer; 02-20-2017 at 12:57 AM.

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    Think of geographical equivalents between Ansalon and Middle-earth. Tolkien himself reused elements from his own Beleriand in writing his Third Age stories, just reconfiguring the geography to suit the story. Consider Ansalon just yet a third reconfiguration. For example,

    Darken Wood + Qualinesti + Wayreth Forest = Mirkwood

    Silvanesti = Lothlórien

    Istar = Númenor

    Southern Ergoth = Tol Eressëa (or Faerie); a quasi-paradise to which the elves sail, fleeing earth; an untouched land in which all ancient knowledge may be found.

    Sanction = Umbar

    And so on. In this way, you can start to get excited about exploring lands of Middle-earth that otherwise have never been experienced (sunken Númenor!), as well as borrow a level of awe and gravitas from Tolkien.

    There are non-geographical equivalencies which can likewise be drawn (Council of Whitestone = Council of Elrond; Dragon Orbs = Palantíri; Cataclsym = Doom of the Noldor + Akallabêth rolled into one), which may or may not be helpful.
    Last edited by Falconer; 02-20-2017 at 01:00 AM.

  6. #6

    Default Believe you me; you have been quite helpful!

    I am thinking that you know the works of Tolkien better than I do! I shall work backward with my reply:

    Indeed; it feels almost as if you have been reading my mind! Among other things, I quite like your idea of geographic equivalents. I was already thinking some of the more obvious ones, such as:

    Solace/Inn of the Last Home = Shire or Bree/Prancing Pony

    Qualinesti = Would be part of Mirkwood, but also has an especially Rivendell vibe (at least in DL 2)

    Xak Tsaroth = Will seem an early Moria to players, what with the Gully Dwarves and the massive nasty surprise in the depths (who is dealt with via wielding a sort of Flame of Arnor on a staff)!

    and especially obviously....

    Plains of Neraka = Mordor ("One does not simply back-pack into Neraka!")

    Neraka = Bara-dur and Cirith-Ungol all rolled into one!

    The Lords of Doom = They will probably invite comparison to the Cracks...of...something

    As to DL's mixed moral messages, I agree with you 100%; in fact I feel that that is the setting's greatest weakness. For that reason I am especially pleased that only three 'deities' appear in the original DL series, and intend to have Paladine and Mishakal be Valar while Takhisis occupies the same sort of fallen status as Morgoth. As to PCs, they will need to retain at least a Reasonably Good alignment; if so, I have a sort of Purgatory prepared for them to allow some continuity using some of the rules from the late 2nd Edition supplement Warriors of Heaven (I reviewed the product on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-r...SIN=0786913614)....That is all I shall say on the matter for now....

    ...Though I will also add that I very much like your comment on the lack-of redeemability of draconians (as with orcs). They are the very essence of corruption; according to the (AD&D) rules, they are reshaping of the contents of metallic dragon eggs into multiple bodies which are then each possessed by a lesser devil (specifically, a certain colour of abishai depending upon the type of draconian). As I wrote above, I am affiliated with a religious order and have both spoken with those involved in exorcism and actually faced possessed (as opposed to merely mentally ill/emotionally distraught, etc.) people in real life, and thus it is going to be an intriguing experience role-playing such creatures....Fortunately for the players, draconians generally don't possess supernatural knowledge of the kind wielded by demons against real-world exorcists and as such I am going to rule that the fiends' abilities cannot be fully manifested through their draconian forms (which have enough special abilities already)!
    Last edited by PrincessLaurana; 02-20-2017 at 04:11 PM.

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    If I might add, there's an additional comparison of when Frodo meets the Nazgul, and when the group meets draconians for the first time. the fact that Frodo and Co was able to flee beyond the river is similar to the Tanis and Co's excursion into Darkenwood.
    Fanwank
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    A fanwank is [...] an attempt by fans of a work of fiction to explain or justify plot holes or continuity errors, often through convoluted contrivances...

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    Another analogy to the Flight to the Ford might be dragon, Onyx. She is a fearsome foe that the low-level heroes of the first book can not possibly defeat without a deus ex machina. Later, in the third book, the more accomplished heroes can and do take on the Nazgûl/dragons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Falconer View Post
    Another analogy to the Flight to the Ford might be dragon, Onyx. She is a fearsome foe that the low-level heroes of the first book can not possibly defeat without a deus ex machina. Later, in the third book, the more accomplished heroes can and do take on the Nazgûl/dragons.
    I had some parties kill Onyx without the Staff of Mishakal (not without some deaths amongst them, though.) It's tough, but it can definitely be done (well, at least the 1e version of Onyx; the 2e version can't really be killed.)
    It is the spirit of the game, not the letter of the rules, which is important. Never hold to the letter written, nor allow some barracks room lawyer to force quotations from the rule book upon you [...] YOU ARE CREATOR AND FINAL ARBITER.
    E. G. Gygax, Dungeon Masters Guide, 1979.

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    Here’s another thread that might interest you, PrincessLaurana: Replacing Gully Dwarves with Dark Dwarves

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