Monday, February 22, 2016

Krynn is Ready




In recent news Christopher Perkins responded to the possibility of reviving Dragonlance for 5th Edition, or more specifically what he saw as its most challenging aspect of a "one-story world."

It's not an uncommon thing I see floating around, and I understand the sentiment.  The Dragonlance Chronicles at the time had an overarching theme, that of a rag-tag group of adventuring friends taking on an evil empire and bringing the miracles of times long past.  Knowledge of the gods, healing magic, the mythic dragonlances, the overthrowing of Emperor Ariakas, the Dragonlance Chronicles brought the mood and feel of an epic fantasy to the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset when at the time most games centered around opportunistic dungeon-delvers.

The world of Dragonlance is quite iconic for the original adventure, but I disagree with the idea that it should begin and end with the original Chronicles.  Over on Twitter Cam Banks, an influential writer for many Dragonlance sourcebooks in the 3rd Edition days, created a #krynnready hashtag for fans to discuss their favorite aspects of the setting.  I contributed a bit, but as my strength is blogging and not 140 character limits, I sought to go more in-depth on why the world appeals to me so.

During the 3rd Edition era, Sovereign Press wrote the Key of Destiny, a three-part adventure path set in the Age of Mortals.  The Key of Destiny centered around the PCs coming upon an elven music box which was capable of unlocking a long-forgotten place.  Said place was the mythical Dragon's Graveyard, where the bodies and souls of the departed beasts of legend were carried.  Naturally, this made the Key of great value to many powerful people of Ansalon, who had less than pure intentions in its use.

Back in high school the Key of Destiny was my most played adventure path.  I used it as a testing ground for new players as I went from social circle to social circle in search of recruits to get together my first real gaming group.  There was lots of trial and error, but in the end I found several great players who I'm friends with to this very day.  It may not be the Chronicles, but it had all the hallmarks which made Dragonlance great: a world-saving adventure, tragedy and romance, background characters with motivations which echoed through the plot, a journey thousands of miles across a fantasy world, and dungeons with history behind them and legacies of prior eras such as cursed ruins and an undersea palace.

Beyond that, there was much more things to tinker with in Krynn's landscape.  The gaming sourcebook Legends of the Twins detailed the post-War of the Lance world and Raistlin's travel through time, but it also had one of my favorite and most-read chapters in any D&D sourcebook: Alternate Krynns.  Much like the Elseworlds concept of the DC Universe, Alternate Krynns took a look at six variant realities where things could have gone different in Dragonlance's history along with adventure seeds and material.

One detailed a world where Raistlin is effortlessly killing the gods and stealing their power, plunging the world into an apocalyptic chaos.  Another posits a reality where an unnatural winter befalls the continent of Ansalon and the ascendant Knights of Takhisis steal and corrupt dragonlances to turn to their own use.  Another suggested an international magocracy where the Wizards of High Sorcery rule the lands and politick against each other's Orders as an all-too-familiar sounding evil empire in the mountains builds up its forces to conquer the world.

Beyond that, Dragonlance spawned countless books, many of varying quality, as a dedicated fanbase built up around it.  Many bookworms entranced by the tales of Raistlin, Laurana, and the Heroes of the Lance never rolled a D20 in their lives, and in some cases were introduced to Dungeons & Dragons via these stories.

As of now Wizards of the Coast's publishing schedules focuses heavily on adventure series, the Forgotten Realms, and outsourcing work to the DM's Guild and trusted third party publishers.  But there's hints that it's trying to expand beyond just the table-top arena and into other forms of media.  As far as settings go, Dragonlance has a lot of qualities and yes, workable material beyond just the "one story" which will be appealing to both new blood and enhance its strengths in the non-tabletop realm.