Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
  • Post
  • Reply
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
Since I only have a 30 page adventure to review for Legends of the Twins, I'm strongly considering starting another sourcebook review while I still got the Dragonlance bug. My current two choices are either War of the Lance (a 3.5 setting sourcebook detailing Ansalon during the Chronicles-era beyond the classic adventures) or Towers of High Sorcery (which details a variety of mechanics and fluff for the veritable arcane organization of Ansalon).

Does anyone here have any preferences?


Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Everyone posted:

I'd really like to hear about the Towers - especially if there's anything to do with the Tests. Even if the Wizards did turn out to be evil/indifferent regardless of stated alignment I kind of liked their "We'll at least pretend to weed out the stupidly self-destructive fuckwits before giving them access to the closest thing to superpowers that exists on this world."

Oh believe me, it not only talks about the Tests, it has a detailed write-up on how to run such a test for PCs and what kinds of challenges to set up for them too. It's part of its own (albeit short) chapter and has a nifty flowchart:

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragons of Desolation: 3rd Edition Changes

I forgot to link my blog post for the preceding chapter Dragons of Hope, so here it is.

Here's the blog post for Dragons of Desolation.

1. Although duergar and derro were the "dark dwarf clans" of the original adventure, further Dragonlance supplements had them go the way of the dodo and made the Theiwar and Daegar their own unique subraces. No psionics or inherent insanity, they're pale dwarves who have light blindness and an inclination towards stealth. As to why the other dwarf clans tolerate them, I presume it's the fact that an all-out war (until the Chronicles) would be disastrous for both sides; another factor is that the dark dwarf kingdoms are just as talented in dwarven craftsmanship but are under a trade embargo by the "good dwarf" clans who also control the major roads into the surface. This means that the Theiwar and Daegar don't have as much economic pull, which the setting uses to justify them grabbing for power in treacherous and deceitful ways.

2. Verminaard doesn't try to pull a Vader "join me and we can rule the world!" thing.

3. The evil derro/Theiwar guide who leads the party into the ambush of 75 evil dwarves is instead a Daegar who leads them into a nest of four umber hulks. The guide can be caught and interrogated about the political situation in Thorbadin (with a pro-Daegar bias of course)

4. One of the rooms which contained a pair of ropers now has just one; likely on account that they're quite powerful in 3rd Edition (CR 12 IIRC).

5. One area where the PCs leave Northgate with Arman is the North Hall of Justice. The PCs must sneak through here in order to get into friendly territory. The 3rd Edition version calls for Move Silently checks every two minutes until a total of five failures is accumulated. If the PCs fail a sixth check (Hide or Move Silently) they are attacked by a small contingent of 22 dark dwarves. Which is manageable in comparison to the 250-strong battalion which they can face (and face 40 automatically with presumably no chance to hide).

6. There's more detail on what happens if PCs go off the beaten path and explore the section of Thorbadin built around the Life-Tree, such as 5 Hylar guards being summoned for every round of combat which happens if the PCs don't surrender and accept an escort to the Hall of the Thanes. But it's still just as rail-roady.

7. During the meeting with the Thanes the PCs have a chance to realize that the Daegar Thane is being telepathically dominated by Verminaad due to similar speech and mannerisms. In the 3.5 version this is excised, and instead a Sense Motive check realizes that he seems to have well-rehearsed his speech and knows several things he shouldn't know, like expecting the PCs' arrival in the kingdom.

8. The adventure dispenses with the extensive maps not relevant to combat areas.

9. An additional encounter with dire wolves infected with super-rabies (and have a "bloodrager" template to reflect this) can be fought in the Valley of the Thanes, aka the undead-infested place with the floating island holding the Hammer of Kharas.

10. The motives of Evenstar is described less as moral tests and more to confuse and misdirect intruders. He also will not use any of his powers to cause death (although some of his pranks like greasing up a staircase can cause 1d6 or 2d6 damage and the swinging invisible logs 3d6). In the room with the magical truth-seeing glasses he will warn the party against theft when disguised as Kharas but not try and force them to stop (last part is added in the 3rd Edition version).

11. The Floating Tomb has four wyverns which can be fought in the upper courtyard. They are advance scouts for the Dragonarmies, and one of them will immediately fly off to warn Ember about the location of the flying tomb (Ember comes regardless, though).

12. Evenstar will join the fight against Ember and attack if the big red dragon somehow harms Evenstar or does collateral damage to the nearby towers (this happens in both versions). Evenstar is a stronger dragon than he, and the Hammer of Kharas' power can be used against him. Furthermore, the PCs have the opportunity to cause Ember to impale himself on the pseudo-Dragonlance with a Bluff vs Sense Motive check like a matador taunting a bull. He has a +27 Sense Motive, so he's almost never going to fail on this. The fight is still just as lopsided save for one trick: DRAGONS HATE HIM; STAY AT HOME WIZARDS DISCOVERS ONE NEAT SPELL TO ONE SHOT SMAUG!

It's Shivering Touch from Frostburn, which is a no-save 3d6 Dexterity damage spell which requires a melee touch to connect. Just about every True Dragon in 3.5 has a score of 10 Dexterity, and Ember's no exception.

13. Neither Verminaard nor the Hammer will control the PC's actions. It will even leap out of a PC's hands to be grabbed by Eben, and Eben hesitates due to an internal dilemma. It will then be taken by Rance, the Daegar Thane, who will then betray Verminaard by throwing the hammer at him in a "I WILL CONTROL THE DWARVEN REALMS NOT YOU!" speech. The Theiwar and Draconians end up fighting the Daegar, and then Rance is paralyzed by Verminaard's Hold Person as Eben moves to kill him. During this chaos the PCs can break free and retrieve their equipment. In the AD&D version it is Eben and Eben alone who does the dramatic triple-cross turn against Verminaard; instead of Hold Person the Red Dragonarmy leader casts Spirtiual Hammer and hits Eben for maximum damage every round.

14. In the AD&D version Elistan will fill the PCs with hope and vigor via special dream magic, granting them bonuses on various abilities. In the 3rd Edition version this goes not happen, but 5 rounds in Takhisis is dissatisfied with how Verminaard's handling things and strips him of all of his divine spells including any active buffs. It is possible to kill Verminaard before he falls into the pit, but he will fling himself into it if he believes he is at risk of capture rather than defeat. Verminaard's Dragonarmy soldiers in the AD&D version suffer penalties on to-hit and damage rolls if they witness their leader dying; in 3rd Edition the loss of morale is merely descriptive in that the fighting quickly dies down when most of the bad guys either flee or or die.

15. The Hammer does not try to mind-control any PCs who try to keep the weapon for themselves. But it would be a huge dick move for them to keep it, so I presume the adventure presumes the PCs do not do this.

16. If the heroes return too late and the refugees are slaughtered, random baaz draconian patrols will spawn if they stay around for too long. In the 3rd Edition version such encounters are excised.

General Note Stuff

This covers things which aren't in specific adventures or changes, but the Dragons of Autumn arc as a whole:

Safe Passage: This isn't a change, but highlighting one of PurpleXVI's questions: Thorbadin's Thane grants the refugees permanent residency within their lands until darkness lifts from Krynn. Even so, Elistan and the refugee faction leaders want to find passage to other lands free of menace because reasons.

Songs: Canticle of the Dragon, Riverwind and Goldmoon's wedding song, etc all have verses in both versions. But only the AD&D version has a musical sheet to accompany the lyrics.

Gully Dwarves: Given that the Chronicles were published before a major "setting book" could be made, stat blocks for draconians, gully dwarves, and brief descriptions of elves are present in every AD&D sourcebook. However, there are some things in the Chronicles' gully dwarves which is not present in others. For one, although Chaotic Neutral, it is described that they're willing to do anything, "no matter how mean," to survive. Gully dwarves also belief that all forms of magic are hoaxes which deserve to be exposed. In later publications it was a force they were fearful of and didn't want anything to do with most of the time rather than a refusal to believe in its existence.

Sturm's Sword: In the AD&D version Sturm has a +3 two-handed sword. In 3rd Edition it is a unique magic item all its own, the Brightblade: it is a +2 bastard sword which deals 2d6 bonus damage vs creatures of chaotic alignment. It will shatter and bestow a curse upon its wielder if said wielder attempts to use it in the furtherance of evil acts.

Dagger of Magius: 3rd Edition Raistlin has one more artifact as his starting equipment. It's a +3 Dagger which cannot be detected by magical or mundane searching of any kind when carried by a mage. This is rather nifty on account that Raistlin could use it to smuggle said weapon into places and will not be found on his person if the party's captured.

Character Cards: As AD&D stat blocks are far smaller, the original versions had sample two-sided cut-out pages for each PC and DMPC. They even came with a drawing of said character's face. We did not get such things in the 3rd Edition version, meaning that some characters such as Eben Shatterstone and Derek Crownguard never get proper pictures in the revision.

And in case people are wondering, here's Eben's handsome mug along with Elistan's and Laurana's:

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

The Anvil of Time Adventure

Some people have already asked in some forums regarding the general playability of time travel. Time Reaver is a 9th-level Sorcerer/Wizard Spell,* while the Device of Time Journeying is in possession of the Master of the Tower of Wayreth and will inevitably fall back into the original owner’s hands if stolen. What of lower-level adventuring parties, and those who do not necessarily want to deal with the aforementioned wizards?

*meaning you’d need to be 17th-18th level to learn it.

Well this adventure provides such an answer with a bonafide time machine dungeon suitable for four 5th-level PCs! The synopsis is that the Anvil of Time is a magical structure built back in the halcyon 2nd Age (Age of Dreams) so that its users could travel through time. An adventurer trapped in the place manages to teleport the PCs into the complex in order to help him get out, and in order to do so they must gather three crystals from the dungeon in different time periods to rebuild the exit portal. Although the overall layout of the dungeon is the same, its inhabitants and state of affairs change based on the time period in question.

Fun Fact: the Anvil of Time was originally published in Dungeon Magazine #86, the first proper Dragonlance Adventure for 3rd Edition. It was written by Tracy Hickman himself to boot, and had very light material on adapting setting material to the new D20 System. It even had some art which wasn’t reprinted in Legends of the Twins, most notably of Huma being a badass. Here’s a few samples:

Our adventure opens up during the 4th Age* when they are approached by a bard looking for a means to earn his keep, and offers to tell them a story of Glory or Doom in exchange for a pittance. A story of Glory has him speak of Huma Dragonbane, legendary knight whose example would go on to form the Knights of Solamnia, and one of his lesser-known adventures where he and his good friend Magius pursued a terrible dragon to a mysterious place known as the Anvil of Time. A story of Doom tells of one of Lord Soth’s lesser-known tales when he and a retinue of Solamnic knights in the service of the Kingpriest hunted down a group of Black Robe wizards in a mysterious place known as the Anvil of Time…

Then the PCs teleport in the middle of the tale, a sensation akin to falling from the world through a tunnel of light.

*Age of Despair when the original Chronicles are set

The Anvil of Time is a 34 room dungeon, but the PCs have the opportunity to venture to the same complex during the 2nd Age (Age of Dreams) and 3rd Age (Age of Might). It is in these Ages the PCs can meet the aforementioned characters and their quarries from the bard’s tale. In order to escape the dungeon they must find three transport crystals required for the exit portal’s operation. And as said transport crystals are long-gone in the Age of Despair, they must be found in the earlier Ages. And in order to get into said earlier ages, the PCs must find slips of paper containing Transport Codes detailing the proper number coordinates to time-travel in a special room. The complex’s location proper is beneath the ruins of the City of Lost Names in the wastelands of northern Ansalon, and the adventure discourages the party from exploring too far outside*: obstacles range from a Dragonarmy or Solamnic knight battalion outside in the 3rd or 4th Ages, or being attacked and burned down by red dragons in the 2nd Age. Given that the city in most cases is but a ruined heap and surrounded by wasteland, this feels rather artificial as a barrier.

*a hole in the exit portal room’s roof leads up there.

The adventure is quite descriptive in places on how to set different atmospheres as well as the effects of time travel in the dungeon. During the 4th Age the Anvil’s fallen into disrepair and much of its rooms are dust-choked, its treasure almost entirely stripped by looters. In the Age of Might, Fistandantilus’ wizards have been renovating the place while the archmage’s clone makes use of research in the library. In the Age of Dreams, the place’s foundations are far stronger and while still old are not decrepit. A giant dragon skeleton in the 3rd and 4th Ages is the very dragon Huma and the PCs fight in the 2nd Age, while the after-effects of battle in rooms reconfigure based on said PCs’ actions in earlier Ages. However, you cannot “duplicate” treasure by taking an item from a later Age and going back in time to retrieve it in an earlier Age: there’s only one of said item, and if taken it’s presumed to have been with the PCs all this time in the intervening centuries/millennia.

During the 4th Age the dungeon’s mostly inhabited by ghouls and draconian looters,* both of whom are in a sour mood on account of the Anvil’s relative lack of warm edible flesh and treasure respectively. The person responsible for teleporting the PCs, a disreputable rogue part of a now-slaughtered group of adventurers, is Darmath Goodfellow. He’s eager to use the PCs at a chance of escape and will explain how they need to find the transport gems to power the exit portal. But he is not averse to turning on them if he figures another group has a better chance of helping him escape (or sparing him) and is Chaotic Evil in alignment.

*The 2nd and 3rd Ages have minotaur or Ergothian looters instead, who are opportunistic scavengers hostile to the other factions but will not seek out combat unless they have a clear upper hand or the PCs run into them.

A few rooms contain descriptions of the Anvil of Time’s features, and are quite complicated (averaging one page worth of description per mechanism) so I’m going to sum them up best I can: a Crystal Globe is used to view images of the outside world in the current Age and teleport people into the Anvil of Time, and thus transport people out to a desired location once the coordinates are set. The PCs put the 3 transport crystals into slots to power the device; its current image is the place where they were hearing the bard’s tale, who now appears frozen in time:

There’s a magical elevator known as the Up-Down which has teleportation portals set in the walls and floors of identical rooms in a continuous loop; you go to a desired floor by grabbing a colored stone corresponding to a specific level from a convenient nearby bowl, and the stone slows down one’s descent until you can safely “air walk” to the proper level:

A room containing a device known as a Transfinite Repeater has a rotary display of 12 numbers designed to accept transport codes, and said rotary is changed by cranking one of three giant winches in respective nearby rooms:

The Transfinite Repeater’s room contains a window looking out into a giant cube straight out of an MC Escher painting:

This cube room is the Anvil of Time proper and from which the dungeon derives its name. Each ‘wall’ and floor of the room corresponds to one of Krynn’s six Ages, the final Age being an as-yet unknown and unpublished Age. Entering in a transport code to a certain Age reorients the cube so that said Age is on the floor level. People on the other sides still exist, but are considered to be in a different time period and thus phase through each other and seem to be on their own gravity orientation but can oddly be witnessed and spoken to. This last part will be found out when the PCs encounter a party of elven soldiers on the 2nd Age side who attempt to arrest them for being “suspicious,” only for their arrows to harmlessly phase through the party.

It should be noted that the above devices’ natures can be discovered via successful Knowledge checks or have it explained by an NPC who understands the Anvil’s workings, although besides Darmath the latter options are all in earlier Ages.

The Anvil in the Age of Might: The Anvil at this time takes place a mere few years before the Cataclysm. The dungeon is inhabited by Solamnic Knights who are slowly winning ground against the Black Robe Wizards; the former are suspicious of the PCs and barring a Diplomacy check, aiding them in combat, or a promise to help them kill the mages, they will presume the party to be on the wizards’ side. The wizards are here on a super-secret mission by Fistandantilus and so will not tolerate any intruders. Should the PCs choose not to intervene, the adventure also suggests running combat between the two factions round by round (hah!) or presuming that a given room has the knights win but lost all but 1d10 HP instead. Being squishy arcanists, the wizards will attack intruders through arrow slits and use the Up-Down elevator to attack from different levels.

The PCs can also meet Lord Soth in his pre-evil undead state, but signs of his fall are apparent given his obsessive single-mindedness of the mission. A Simulacrum of Fistandantilus can be fought, and although greatly weakened and running out of spells from earlier combat is still very dangerous on account of having a high caster level and Fireball traps set in strategic choke points by the wily wizard. One other notable encounter includes an animated bronze statue with electrical-powered fists thanks to an internal Wand of Shocking Grasp powering its blows.* A ghostly gnome and former living inhabitant of the Anvil is remote-controlling the statue to defend the complex against intruders, and she initially presumes the PCs to be up to no good.

*and whose charges are drained per attack.

The Anvil in the Age of Dreams: A party of Silvanesti elves are accompanying Huma Dragonbane and Magius in hunting down a red dragon who took refuge in the Anvil of Time. The dungeon at this point is in its best condition, and its rooms have the largest amount of magical treasure. The red dragon has amassed a considerable hoard in the room with the exit portal and is very strong: Challenge Rating 10 with an 8d10 breath weapon and melee attacks all but guaranteed to hit PCs at this level. The adventure recommends making the fight with said dragon super-cinematic, where fire breaths, tail swipes, and area of effect spells cause pillars and walls to break, granting granting access to adjacent rooms and forming debris which can cause damage from falling or serve as cover. Fortunately the PCs have a chance at gaining the aid of Huma and the elven soldiers. The elves are mostly dicks, speak only in an antiquated form of Elven which doesn’t translate perfectly to its modern counterpart, and whose leader is the most likely to meet the PCs on non-violent terms.

Huma Dragonbane and a Silvanesti cleric are in a room inspecting a Dragonlance and trying to figure out its properties, while Magius is in the library and may tolerate an interruption from his research to answer questions. Said ancient library is entirely in the language of the irda (good-aligned ogres) and has a few books of events which have yet to pass in the current history. There’s a few easter eggs of IRL novels with titles such as Draconian Measures and the Annotated Dragonlance Chronicles.

The named NPCs are quite powerful, although not overly-so: Huma is 8th level, Magius 10th, the elven leader and cleric 5th, and the 8 elven soldiers 3rd level Warriors. The dragon’s guaranteed to kill the latter with a well-placed breath weapon and possibly Magius and the Silvanesti leaders with some focused strikes, but with a Dragonlance Huma has a good chance of putting on the hurting. It’s likely that the party can easily overwhelm the dragon due to sheer action economy alone.

And in case you’re wondering, no, Soth and Huma’s parties will not accompany the PCs to different time periods given that they still have much work to do in their own eras. And if Huma is ever in danger of dying then Magius will step in at the last moment and teleport him to safety, for he has a destiny to defeat Takhisis.

When the PCs manage to go through the exit portal, they appear before the bard who continues his story as though nothing happened. He includes some exaggerated descriptions of notable actions two or three PCs performed in the appropriate Age as he finishes the story, and will be surprised at the notice of any new treasure or survivors which seemingly appeared out of nowhere. He will be interested in said unusual changes and ask if the party has any tales worth telling about them.

Magazine/Legends Changes: the bard has his own stat block in the adventure although entirely unnecessary given he never takes part in combat. In the Dungeon Magazine adventure he was a Bard classwise, but to reflect the lack of “primal sorcery/spontaneous spellcasting” during the 4th Age he has levels in Master (Performer). Master can be summed up as Skill User: the Class from the War of the Lance sourcebook. Several other stat blocks are changed to make use of material from the Dragonlance sourcebooks, such as Huma having levels in Knight of the Crown and Magius/Fistandantilus levels in Wizard of High Sorcery Prestige Classes. Lord Soth is a much-stronger 10th level Paladin in Dungeon, but a 7th level Fighter in Legends.

There’s notes on how to scale the adventure for higher or lower-level parties, a common thing in Dungeon Magazine. Most of them involved changing the number of creatures or or changing the red dragon’s age category.

The Silvanesti Warriors and Black Robe Wizard mooks are all dudes in Dungeon Magazine, but in Legends of the Twins are given a more even gender parity.

Darmath’s stat block is reworked to give him a better Bluff check (+8 instead of +3) in the Legends sourcebook given the adventure mentions he will “lie to save his skin.” The ghost gnome’s an Expert in Dungeon, a Rogue in Legends.

There are stat blocks for draconians and kender in the appendix in Dungeon.

Thoughts So Far: This is a pretty nifty dungeon crawl. Some of the time travel and device mechanics may be a bit complicated to explain, which may not be to every group’s liking. The Anvil serves as a useful “home base” of sorts for making forays into other eras, although its remote location on Ansalon places it out of the grasp of the party once they finish said adventure until they travel to the aforementioned City of Lost Names. It feels a bit too easy to end up in combat with the “good factions” in this module, and a bit hard to narratively discuss how the PCs may be on good terms with Soth/Huma/etc when they’re covered in the blood of their companions. And while most encounters are simple “war of attrition” style fights dungeons are renowned for, the presence of allied NPCs risks making the dungeon crawl too easy depending on the PC makeup.

Concluding Thoughts: And so we come to an end of the Legends of the Twins review. I hope that those reading along found it an entertaining one, even if Dragonlance is not everyone's cup of tea.

As to my next review, both choices were popular, but I’m going to begin work on the Towers of High Sorcery. Once I finish that review, I’ll tackle War of the Lance next.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

PurpleXVI posted:

I feel like probably the biggest challenge would be accounting for changes from, say, the 2nd Age propagating into the 3rd and 4th. It suggests having the dragon knock down a wall, sure, but what if that wall no longer being present would considerably change the balance of power between the battling parties in the 3rd age?

Also Magius and Huma have plot armor, but what about, say, Soth? His death would considerably alter the timeline.

Not to mention, uh, you'd figure that Magius, being a clever wizard fella, would figure out that he's found a time machine and make use of it... in fact what does the adventure suggest happens if the players blab about the Anvil's purpose and capabilities to any of the locals?

:shrug: None of these questions are answered in the adventure. :shrug:

The walls of Rooms 18 and 24 are the ones the red dragon will knock down if she gets the chance to, but the meat of the knight/wizard fighting occurs in the western portion of the Anvil. Although there are indications that the wizards have been elsewhere such as Room 32 which is very close to 24.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

MonsterEnvy posted:

Man the White Dragon Army leader was way more pathetic than the Red one.

Edit: Thinking of that, do the Dragon Armies have the Red, Blue, Green, Black, White hierarchy?

The Dragonarmies (in theory) are more or less equals and their Dragon Highlords (Verminaard, Feal-Thas, etc) obey Emperor Ariakas. Who in turn takes orders from Takhisis herself.

But overall, the total strength and power of the respective Dragonarmies are congruent to their matched dragons: the Red has the most territory and range, but the Blue's a strong contender for being commanded by Kitiara, making liberal use of undead troops, and controlling much of Solamnia which is the breadbasket of Krynn.*

The Black Dragonarmies' territories are mostly in eastern Ansalon and thus are more of a domestic police force, while the Green Dragonarmies are the other major "domestic military" unit andwere tasked with uniting the Khur tribes by force. They also had a hand in invading Silvanesti, who was one of the first countries attacked by the Dragonarmies on account of them being a high-magic nation in a low-magic world and thus a veritable threat.

The White Dragonarmy gets the short end of the stick where most of their territory is in the wasteland of Icewall.

Fun fact, the Blue Dragonarmies remnants are able to hold onto the most territory post-War of the Lance and try to invade Palanthas in the Legends trilogy.

All five Dragonarmies have a presence in the heart of the Empire, including the capital city of Neraka and the nearby city of Sanction. Sometime after Verminaard's death Ariakas takes control of the Red Dragonarmy himself to make up for the power vacuum.

Another interesting thing I'd like to bring up is that while it's not out and out said in the modules (cannot speak to the books) but you may have noticed that so far the Dragonarmies have been heavily monstrous. They do have human soldiers and officers, but you start seeing them as encounters more during the Dragons of Spring Dawning arc, aka deep in the Empire's territory, and during the Battle of the High Clerist's Tower near the end of the Winter Night arc.

It's been discussed in other sourcebooks, but a lot of Dragonarmy officers are human, using the draconians and goblinoids as expendable shock troops. Minotaurs, thanoi, and the like are akin to foreign mercenary units. When running the Chronicles I played up this inequality, where a lot of the Dragonarmies while successful in uniting the monstrous races often took them for granted. But when the war started turning against them and the Dark Queen needed more troops to toss into the meat-grinder (or when infiltrating the Empire proper) the PCs saw and fought more human Dragonarmy soldiers.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 09:36 on Dec 13, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

MonsterEnvy posted:

Blue Dragon's are not really that kind of Lawful Evil.

Say what you will about blue dragons, it was they who almost single-handedly broke Solamnia and held onto Nerakan territory when the Red Dragonarmy was falling into chaos.

Without the Blue Dragonarmy, there would be no New Neraka.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragons of Ice: 3rd Edition Changes

Blog post link.

1. The artwork is different in a lot of places. Often more detailed, notably the maps. Although a lot of the older artwork's not present. Some examples:


3rd Edition:

The last pic is of Feal-Thas proper, who in both versions has a pack of pet winter wolves (who are scattered throughout the complex and do not fight alongside him; wasted potential).

2. Laurana is a proper PC rather than an NPC, while Derek Crownguard is demoted from controllable PC to NPC. There's also a sidebar on how to role-play him. For those who haven't read the novels (including myself) he was a constant stick in the mud who butted heads with the party, and was obsessed with the Dragon Orbs and victory at any cost that he died in a foolhardy and tragic manner during the Battle of the High Clerist's Tower. This can be averted in both the AD&D and 3rd Edition versions. Derek in 3rd Edition has levels in Noble and Legendary Tactician* as well as Fighter, meaning that he can give the party some bardic-like buffs. His feat selection is optimized around mounted combat, which is not unusual for a Solamnic Knight but can be a hindrance in Dragons of Ice given the relative lack of horses.

*martial prestige class focused around buffing alllies.

3. There's one more Solamnic Knight PC: Brian Donner, a faithless Paladin and Knight of the Sword who is a chivalrous and brave man. He is pretty much a Fighter without bonus feats, but if he becomes faithful to the true gods he will gain holy powers. Both he and Aran Tallbow were killed off quite early in the novels, so they didn't get much characterization in the main story.

4. There's a lot more random and set-piece encounters in Tarsis, both before and during the siege. They range from things like Dragonarmy patrols, drunk city guards, angry mobs, and a fortune-teller who can give a PC a minor spendable one-time +2 bonus to a roll. There's a set-piece encounter for what happens if the PCs try to get violent at the governor's palace (Dragonarmy soldiers and Gildentongue, an aurak draconian ambassador who is a sort of recurring villain in the adventure path). The book provides a template for a Mob, which was originally in the Dungeon Master's Guide but is basically meant to simulate large groups of human-sized opponents handled as one creature. Sadly we only see it used for unruly peasants and not Dragonarmy troops, which would be the more logical choice.

5. The caretaker of the hidden library in Tarsis will not let the PCs leave with the magical Glasses of Arcanist without a fair trade of some other magical or unique item.

6. One of the nearby towns, Zeeriak, has a new NPC for the PCs to meet. Galeswept is a nomadic human Barbarian who brokured a trading pact with the White Dragonarmy of furs and other goods in exchange for protection. There's not much more than that but she can give the PCs information about the region presuming they don't tip their hands that they may upset the political balance.

7. PCs can meet griffons as a friendly random encounter outside of Tarsis. Through them they can learn that their companions who fled with Alhana Starbreeze are safe, and can be used for long-distance aerial travel (to a point, the Plains of Dust are the griffon's home and they don't wish to go too far).

8. The PCs can help aid the Ice Folk during the invasion of their village. It is run as a series of 3 encounters whose relative level of success determines the losses suffered by the Ice Folk: holding the south wall, repelling the thanoi from setting the ice boats on fire, and holding off the enemies so that civilians can retreat. Each of them don't need to "kill all the bad guys" to win, where if a set amount of rounds pass the conditions are such that Dragonarmy's attempts fail. Feal-Thas and Sleet attacks the village in a brief strafing one in both versions, but only the AD&D advises that they don't enter direct combat with the PCs. Meaning that theoretically the PCs can kill off the Dragon Highlord and his mount before visiting Icewall Castle.

9. When climbing up the Icewall there is no "you fall the entire way" result. Failed checks mean that a PC falls and slides before hitting a lower level and suffering damage. PCs who are strong enough can perform a Reflex save to safely catch a faller. The PC with the highest check rolls Climb and the others roll to Aid Another (add +2 to the primary roller) to see how far they progress. And yes, spells such as levitate and fly can bypass this entirely.

10. Looting the frozen Dragonlance-wielding Solamnic knight or animating his body into an undead will be met with angry rejection by Derek Crownguard and any Solamnic NPCs in the party. There's no mention of what happens in either version if a PC tries to cast Speak with Dead on the dragon or the knight.

11. Feal-Thas has a minotaur second in command by the name of Ronox de-Jaska. He's a Fighter/Legendary Tactician who focuses on greataxe and charge attacks with his horns.

12. Feal-Thas' spell selection is greater in 3rd Edition and more geared towards overt damage-dealing spells than Save or Sucks like Polymorph. Any damaging spell he can opt to deal cold damage, he is capable of summoning monsters, and he has levels in a prestige class called Winternon and one of its more unique features is to grant a once-per-day +10 bonus to a d20 roll related to seeing an opponent's wyrd (Knowledge, Sense Motive, or rolling for initiative in combat).

13. Sleet is still a very dangerous dragon (very high AC, powerful melee attacks) but his breath weapons deals a more survivable 8d6 damage. The default Heroes of the Lance stat blocks in back have HP ranging from 40 to 80, with most ranging in the 50s range.

14. As for lack of ranged damage-dealing, Elistan's a lot more powerful in 3rd Edition on account of well...CoDzilla. He has a greater selection of spells he can swap out every day depending on how generous the DM is with sourcebooks.

His default stat block has Searing Light, a good ranged spell. He can also cast Flame Strike which can be useful against Sleet. For the more martial PCs, both adventures have a room full of magical icicles which can act as magical javelins or shortspears, although there's not a lot and they don't do much damage (3rd Edition Sleet has 276 HP).

15. Sleet's Lair has treasure in it beyond the Dragon Orb: Bracers of Armor and a Ring of Counterspells are the two magical treasure, and thousands of steel pieces worth of various fancy art and trade goods.

16. The remorhaz, although rather unintelligent (sentient but cannot speak any language), is capable of being turned against the Dragonarmy in Icewall Castle on the fact that it is being kept prisoner and fed the corpses of prisoners. As to how the PCs can do this, the adventure leaves it to the gaming group's imagination. In AD&D the remorhaz had animal intelligence, so this is a nice touch on edition changes.

17. To account for the Solamnic DMPCs, new Archetypes for replacement PCs are added: the Shepherd (Elistan), the Golden General (meant to be an Archetype a character becomes rather than starts out as, Laurana), the Bon Vivant (Aran Tallbow the archer-knight), the Gallant (Brian Donner the not-Paladin knight), and the Maiden (Laurana).

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 00:36 on Dec 15, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

PurpleXVI posted:


Dragons of Light

An elven hunting party, with a stag rider, and stag riders are loving cool, I can't lie on that, but they show up with their slaves. These are Silvanesti elves, see, with Kagonesti "servants" along. It turns out that the Silvanesti homelands are thoroughly hosed by an as-yet untold disaster, so they just skipped out to sea, landed on Ergoth, the Kagonesti homeland, and took over, enslaved the locals and started turning their camps into fortresses reminiscent of home. So the game is outright telling us here, that it is evil to kill or attack slave-taking colonist scum.

Please eat my poo poo, Dragonlance, thank you.

I'll wait until you finish up the second half before rolling out my list of 3rd Edition changes, but you'll be pleased to know it's no longer evil to attack said elves, either in self-defense or to liberate enslaved Kagonesti.

:anarchists: The D20 translators are WOKE. :anarchists:

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Night10194 posted:

The thing that's so drat weird about it is why the gently caress would you go to CHIVINGTON? Like, of all the figures to go to, why the architect of a terrible and infamous massacre? There's all sorts of stuff you could cite for a generic edgy 'a brutal world needs brutal solutions to deter brutality' nonsense take, why specifically go to the infamous war criminal?

E: Basically there's just something so off about Gygax specifically going there and using that specific turn of phrase (and saying Chivington was hardly the first to note it as 'an observable fact' that sets my teeth on edge.

When talking about why there's so few female gamers, Gygax also mentioned that he's a biological determinist. Although saying this in regards to women (which is still terrible and cringey), it combined with the above does not paint a very rosey picture.

Biological determinism is a form of philosophical determinism which posits that every major personality trait and life decision is affected entirely by one's genetic structure, and no amount of environmental factors can change this. Gygax posited this as why there's much less women gamers than men, viewing the activities of tabletop games (and competition in general) as something female brains just can't grok or enjoy.

What's strangely funny about this was that this post was on EN World and Dragonsfoot in a forum interview, around the early Aughties IIRC. Meaning that games with a larger-than-normal female fanbase like Vampire existed for a decade by now.

It is also a philosophy which has most infamously been promoted by white supremacists, for obvious reasons. Although Gygax has not say, praised the Nazi Party or KKK (he did take a dim view of Germany's totalitarianism) that doesn't make the above any less excusable.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 23:32 on Dec 16, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Seatox posted:

Paladine, turn in your God Card. You're fired.

You'd think idiot-mc-godface would have noticed the whole draconian thing going on and put two-and-two together. "Geee, all these dragon-men are kinda like twisted, corrupted mini-metallic dragons, wherever did they come from?"

Like Istar, Paladine is kind of Lawful Stupid rather than Lawful Good.

Wait, Istar was Lawful Evil.

Wait, Fizban's monkeycheese antics aren't Lawful, at least not in the way most D&D gamers think of said alignment.

Wait...what alignment is Paladine again?

In a similar example, the reliance upon the letter of the law was portrayed as a large hindrance of the Solamnic Knights, their leadership unwilling to adapt to new things to the point that it was stifling their ability to be properly Lawful Good. Derek Crownguard holding a high rank in spite of his many character faults was meant to demonstrate this.

So if anything the whole "YOU BETRAYED THE OATH" thing makes Paladine and the gods of light closer to the "outdated relic" when in fact a big point of the adventure and novels is that their return to Krynn is a good thing.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragons of Light: 3rd Edition Changes

Obligatory blog post link.

1. There’s no introductory discussion on the different elf types on account that the 3rd Edition “core” sourcebooks already do this.

2. Making D’argent a PC is no longer an option which you can randomly roll: instead it’s suggested as a possibility to discuss privately with a player you trust for the role if you want to go that route. There’s also explanations of what their dragon-disguised D’argent forms are doing and how they’ll try to convince the PCs to visit the Stone Dragon fortress. She is also using a shapeshift spell-like ability rather than a magic jar spell to hijack a person’s body. This means that the “real” NPC is still around but elsewhere, meaning if she’s disguised as Fizban the inevitable encounter with said wizard will be a dead giveaway there’s an imposter (and thus causes said confrontation).

3. The initial white dragon encounter still happens at the beginning, but if the PCs killed Sleet in Dragons of Ice it will be Squall, a much weaker dragon who is the mount of Flight Marshal Odenkeer (who we’ll talk about later. The “replacement dragon” in the AD&D version is a nameless dragon scout from Daltigoth; the D20 version just gave him a name and personality.

4. It’s no longer listed as an evil act to attack the Silvanesti hunting party. Also most Qualinesti NPCs are listed as Chaotic Good, with most Silvanesti Lawful Neutral. The Kagonesti are overall Neutral. In spite of this the nominally freedom-loving Qualinesti are just as eager to enslave the Kagonesti and treat them like trash and hate Laurana for her relationship with the half-elf Tanis.

5. There’s detailed write-ups of the various important figures in the elven lands and their personalities and initial attitudes when meeting the PCs.

6. The disguised ogre mage’s poison is incapable of killing the PCs but can knock them unconscious. Which can still be a lovely TPK given that he’ll attack the PCs once some or all of them succumb to the poison.

7. Several encounters in the wilderness are changed and some new ones are added as well. The Mountains of Ergoth, in addition to having treacherous terrain, have ogre war parties aided by harpy archers, while the legendary boar Harkunos the Thunderer is capable of casting spells from the Strength domain and can shapechange into humanoid form (in AD&D he was just a really big boar).

8. Some DMPC and potential D’argent-disguised characters have different classes and roles: Silvart, formerly a Fighter/Thief, is now a Druid/Rogue with actual spellcasting; Porthios is a Noble/Fighter at 10th level rather than just a Fighter; Theros Ironfeld is an 11th-level Master specializing in Craft skills rather than a meager 3rd-level Fighter (his combat capabilities are still sub-par). Finally, the gnome Theodenes is a multi-class Fighter/Master/Ranger rather than a pure Fighter: some of him more ‘techy’ abilities include alchemical weapons like thunderstones and tanglefoot bags, an “Exploit Weakness” class feature which lets her add Intelligence instead of Strength/Dexterity to attack rolls, and a Gnome Toolbelt which can let him temporarily turn equipment masterwork by spending Tool Points and regain said points by breaking down items and traps.

9. Although not a change per se, the writers saw fit to make the ogres’ farming beasts of burden just as tough in the edition transition. Baluchitheriums are Challenge Rating 9, have 184 hit points, and can dish out a lot of damage in melee. But like all non-magical giant animals they lack the means of attacking enemies which can keep out of their range.

10. The ruined city of Daltigoth is still overall undetailed, but the book points out that there’s more information in the War of the Lance sourcebook now published.

11. An encounter with will-o-wisps in some salt marshes has actual magical treasure in the form of a Wand of Fireballs (that’ll be useful!), two Elixirs of Hiding, and a +2 Mighty Cleaving Battleaxe. This magical weapon property lets the user make a bonus Cleave attack against a second opponent within reach. For our non-D20 readers, Cleave was a notable feat which let you make a bonus attack against an enemy in melee when you KO or kill a different enemy in the same round.
12. If the PCs rob the Tomb of Huma of the sword and shield magical items or D’argent’s personal treasure hoard, the dragon will protest against doing so regardless of what form she has (or growl and snarl if in animal form) but will not attack the party if they ignore her. She will ask them to return the treasures once she reveals her true form to the PCs, trusting that this will give some authority to her request.

13. The tribe of aarakocra the PCs can meet in the Hidden Vale are replaced by Kyrie, a different race of flying bird-people who are also native to Krynn; their tribe is called the Aara-Kocra, which is a none-too-subtle nod to their original species. If D’argent is disguised as the elven leader Porthios, she will be treated well due to taking him there while he was wounded to recover while she was disguised as Fizban. Hearing about this from the kyrie can tip off the party to a potential imposter.

14. The Stone Dragon in Foghaven Vale is occupied by a White Dragonarmy officer, Flight Marshal Odenkeer, and his sivak draconian minions who fill up a few otherwise empty rooms. Odenkeer’s mission is to find the well of dragonmetal and taint it to prevent the creation of any more Dragonlances. He sought to hire Vanderjack’s band for aid, but sent the sivak draconians to kill and impersonate his associates (who he has less need of) as an insurance policy if the legendary mercenary decided to turn upon him. Odenkeer is purely martial, being a Fighter with levels in Rogue Knight (think martial rogue) and Legendary Tactician.

15. If Feal-Thas somehow survived Dragons of Ice, he will replace Odenkeer here.

16. The Guardian of the Lances, that super-boss construct who becomes more powerful the more PCs who fight it at once, is present. Instead of gaining strength from being attacked, it gains power with every opponent of evil alignment it drops.

17. The room with the Guardian is also the room which the PCs will fight Flight Marshal Odenkeer, a pair of sivaks, and possibly Vanderjack who will turn on the party if he’s an NPC/not D’argent. The Guardian already killed 6 draconians previously, and Odenkeer will try to out-maneuver the PCs by putting them and the Guardian in its line of fire if possible. Odenkeer, if successfully fled, will fight the PCs after drinking an invisibility potion down at the Heart level with the Dragonmetal Pool. There’s a giant celestial basilisk instead of a stone golem guarding the forge level who can be dismissed by D’argent. The battle becomes a race against time as Odenkeer will make a mad race for the dragonmetal pool, possessing a foul liquid substance which he can use to corrupt it. Even if poured in, the pool’s corruption can be countered by positive energy magic, but once the corruption is complete only the willing self-sacrifice of a good-aligned character can restore the pool to its original state.

18. The fight with the three white dragons still happens as a climax encounter. But dragonlances do not break off into an enemy’s flesh when using them. Additionally, they deal Constitution drain instead of the user’s/mount’s hit points when used against dragons specifically. This applies every hit with no saving throw, and can do even more Constitution on a critical hit, which still makes them very effective weapons.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 02:47 on Dec 17, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Omnicrom posted:

I am starting to get the feeling that maybe the people were extremely within their rights to abandon the gods.

I cannot speak for Weis, but when you see the Mormon symbolism behind the Golden Plates Discs of Mishakal, the Abanasinian nomads being based off of Great Plains Native Americans, and Tracy Hickman's Mormon background, the "do as I say not as I do" aspect of the gods makes sense when looking at it through the lens of conservative Christianity. The God of said theological denomination is much like an abusive parent, who lays the fault of their own moral failings at the hands of those they're supposed to protect, and the more 'faithful' followers then go through hoops of rationalization and justification as to how they can willingly worship such an entity (or group of entities in this case) who causes such needless harm.

At risk of mentioning the name of a YouTube chud, a long-ago debate between the evangelical Ray Comfort and the atheist Thunderf00t inadvertently exposed this line of thinking for me. Thunderf00t asked Ray if he'd agree that any action is moral if God condoned it. When Ray said yes, he asked if this would apply to things such as pedophilia. Ray grew uncomfortable and refused to answer the question, citing his 'fear of God' if he spoke honestly. The fact that an omniscient God can read your heart of hearts if He existed is besides the point; the gaslighting of one's own mind or memories is not unlike what happens with an abusive authority figure to further avoid punishment from them.

Dragonlance's whole "the people left the Gods, the Gods did not leave the people" is a kind of "father/mother knows best, you'll come crawling back to me" line of thinking. It gets even more petty when you read the wider sourcebooks which note that various civilizations, such as the dwarves and the elves, still worshiped the gods or honored their contributions to society in an historical sense but were still denied spells.

A lot of the problems people have with the Dragonlance deities is similar to the problems people have with fundamentalist Christianity's conception of God: that of an entity who claims to be loving but is domineering and quick to anger. And that the text both in-character and out sides against the mortals' feeling of loss just compounds things.

Overall I wouldn't group in Mormons with Protestant fundamentalists as they're pretty much their own thing theologically speaking, but the problem of a God who does actions which would be considered immoral if a mortal does it is still present in their religion in places.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 03:08 on Dec 17, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
In my excitement of reading the update post and penning the list of Edition changes, I forgot to link my blog post of how I ran Dragons of Light.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Everyone posted:

Can I just say that this would be so much cooler if that was the whole party? A mercenary, native elf and a blacksmith with a magic arm accompanied by their bear, dog and tiger kitten would have been so much more interesting than what we got.

When you give people permission to build their own PCs in the Dragonlance Chronicles, you end up with some rather interesting choices.

When I ran the game for 13th Age, we had among our number a punchy sorcerer who was a student at a magic school from another campaign setting, a grim paladin prophet who rarely emoted, a creepy goblin hermit worshiper of Chaos, and a former exiled elf and Dragonarmy officer. And that was just our Winter team!

From my recollection of the time I ran it in high school for 3rd Edition, we had a snooty Silvanesti elf wizard who was a secret pyromaniac and a mountain dwarf fighter with a fondness for riding a horse everywhere to compensate for his stubby dwarf limbs. The other 2 PC identities escape my mind right now, but given how close the traditional Heroes of the Lance adhere to stock fantasy tropes it can be quite fun seeing how original characters can impact the Chronicles in their own offbeat ways.

I will admit that if I ever became a player in a Dragonlance campaign for a change I'd totally love to play a tinker gnome with some crazy-rear end steampunk technology. Ideally if it can be a mech suit or "power glove/gauntlet" to let me punch things real hard despite my small size. Even if it the system we're using doesn't support that concept, I will try reflavoring some magical class if I can.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 06:00 on Dec 17, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Gun Jam posted:

Re - Dragonlance;
Did anyone playtest these modules?
Also, Paladine - there's a reason that a number fantasy setting with gods have 'em not interfering much in the way of mortals, priests aside. I mean, your're here, and you help* - why ain't you just solving the problem, man?


Their opening post says it's based on the books, and not the show, sooo

The Dragonlance novels were based off of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's own gaming sessions which they were writing up for TSR's Dragonlance project.* Several of the players in those sessions helped write a lot of the DL series PurpleXVI's reviewing today; in fact, the name Jeff Grubb shows up almost as much as the big two, and he's contributed to countless Dragonlance sourcebooks and modules since.

So they were 'playtested' in the same vein that the DM's own adventures, warts and all, were eventually converted into a published adventure serial.

*During the late 70s to early 80s TSR had a desire to do something different than the anti-hero Conanesque "treasure hunters" module which D&D had in spades, and instead try something closer to Tolkienesque high fantasy.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 23:24 on Dec 17, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

MonsterEnvy posted:

If I remember correctly, Takhisis and Paladine were the names they came up with for the Chromatic Dragon and Platinum Dragon from the Greyhawk (supplement) for their home games. Before the Monster Manual named them Tiamat and Bahamut.

IIRC the rationale for this was that Hickman and/or Weis were reluctant to use the names of real-world deities so subbed in names they made up instead.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

PurpleXVI posted:


Dragons of War!

I enjoyed the High Clerist's Tower as well for several of the positive reasons you outlined. It also goes to show you that Dragonlance always wanted to be a war game; the high number of PCs and DMPCs, the Battlesystem rules, the mook hordes, the big battles with Thorbadin and the Ice Folk encampment really struggled against the AD&D default rules.

The later games in the Fire Emblem series they handled the concept of high PC numbers well: there was a small core team, but a bunch of minor characters who had their own convo options and self-contained sidequests but weren't vital to the plot. But you wanted to keep them alive because numbers matter and various unit classes/weapon types/etc play off of each other in a rock/paper/scissors way. What I'm saying is that Dragonlance can learn a thing or two from Fire Emblem.

The War of the Lance sourcebook goes into more detail on the Dragonarmies' military campaigns and the timescale, but I'm not at home yet so I'll save it for a later post.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
I cannot find the exact quote, but one person asked if anyone ever confronted the Dragonlance writers for the faults of their adventures.

I cannot say for the Chronicles specifically, but back in the early Aughties there was one incident where Hickman wrote some gaming group advice for sessions which more or less amounted to "make things interesting" if the game dragged on or got boring, even if it involved inter-party conflict. Monte Cook later retorted that such advice would cause a gaming group to fall into anarchy.

Hickman took offense to this and retorted. Cook then disengaged from the argument rather than adding fuel to the fire.

Cannot find direct sources, but there was a convo about this on EN World.

Another thing to consider is that as far as I can tell, such feuds didn't really happen or spill out in public,* so something like a guy at Gen Con accosting Weis or Hickman could happen, it likely wouldn't have gone anywhere positive or been reported on beyond word of mouth anecdotal evidence. This is compounded by the non-confrontational nature of geek social fallacies and the desire not to be known as the geek who bad-mouthed a D&D luminary.

At risk of beating a dead horse, Gygax's statements on women and Native Americans were never taken to task until after his death, not even in the threads where he made his arguments about "biological determinism" and "nits make lice." Something far more minor like the Dragonlance adventures would have been even less likely to cause a nerd confrontation or end up news-worthy.

*until very recently thanks to social media and the culture wars.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 00:19 on Dec 20, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Nessus posted:

Battalions being like lock-on supplemental parts to your core character is very clever, but I imagine the D&D worldview would swiftly lend itself to "aha, I use my batallion as disposable trap trigger nerds!" or "I train my group to all go for a headshot on the enemy general, and since there's over 20 of them, statistically speaking one should get a nat 20!" etc.

For the unfamiliar, in Fire Emblem 3 Houses you get to equip squads/platoons of dudes as support for your named characters, who provide stat bonuses and optional techniques and level up a little on their own. There is a skill you can focus training on to equip better and stronger platoons. There are a couple of people with unique abilities that make them (potentially) stronger without a unit attachment, seemingly making it explicit that the idea is "yeah, normally speaking, everyone will have one."

Fire Emblem had perm-death and no means of recruiting beyond story-based characters. In Valkyria Chronicles if you're dumb enough to kill off all of your non-essential characters they will be replaced by literal nameless mooks who are worse stat-wise in every way. A tabletop equivalent would be something which gives you incentive to keep the good troops alive, and lock the "bad mooks" into a punishment routine where your army's gotten so desperate they're scraping the bottom of the barrel in peasant conscripts.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragons of War: 3rd Edition Changes

Obligatory blog post.

Note: I'd like to mention that we're getting close to the home stretch of Dragonlance Adventures. After this Dragons of Deceit is our last Winter adventure, and Dreams, Faith, and Truth detail what the PCs who escaped from Tarsis with Alhana Starbreeze on griffons have been up to. Said Spring adventures are meant to take place at roughly the same time as the Winter arc (Ice, Light, War, Deceit). Dragons of Triump is technically "Spring" but has the PCs from both groups reunite for one last grand adventure to take down the Dragonarmies and bring peace to Krynn.

1. The Morale System is more or less unchanged and transitions well to 3rd Edition interestingly enough, along with the one-page outline of a Simplified Battle Resolution System. There is no mention of Battlesystem, as by the time this adventure was released there’s enough mass combat rules (D20 and otherwise) that the adventure trusts gaming groups to use whichever ones suit their tastes best.

2. The AD&D version refers to the High Clerist’s Tower as the Clerist Keep in some places. All such mentions are changed in 3rd Edition to be consistent.

3. The journeys for travel time dispense with wilderness hex and give flat rates for travel based on their current location and there they wish to go to next.

4. The Tower of Crystyn is guarded over by a Retriever demon rather than being entirely abandoned. The PCs have to work to get their magical loot.

4. The magical items the Solamnic Knights can give the PCs from their treasure are mostly updated into their closest equivalents, with some exceptions: a Cloak of Invisibility becomes a Cloak of Resistance (bonus on all saving throws) while a +3 longsword becomes a +2 mighty cleaving longsword.

5. If Theodenes, the gnome DMPC from Dragons of Light, is still with the party and they visit Mount Nevermind, the gnomes express concern that the PCs are traveling with “a mad gnome” whose success rate with his inventions are too high, and they treat him passive-aggressively. If the other PCs complain or confront the gnomes’ poor treatment, they see the error of their ways and agree to start up a diversity relations program. It will take 13 months to get properly set up, but Theodenes will be greated better in the short term.

6. More maps. We have a nicely-detailed full-page map of the city of Palanthas:

The Tower itself (and the surrounding terrain for the mass combat battlemap) has maps in both, although the 3rd Edition the Towers are oriented slightly differently and are in black and white artwork spread out over several pages.

7. If the PCs meet Astinus to ask for advice on the Tower, artifacts, etc he has some in-character descriptions. This is in both Editions, but some bits of the text are changed slightly:

1st Edition posted:

Even as the Cataclysm rang across the land, it was placed carefully on a dais at the base of a great shaft surrounded by well-secured doors.

3rd Edition posted:

Orb—Even as the lost souls of the Tower wailed in agony, it was placed carefully on a dais at the base of a great shaft surrounded by well secured doors.

8. In the AD&D version it is mentioned that the PCs could gain the aid of Palanthas’ local army in exchange for 80% of treasure found in the High Clerist’s Tower. This option does not exist in the 3rd Edition version.

9. The precipitation on one of the higher-elevated passes to the Tower turns to snow, making it impassible for 14 days.

10. Yarus is 20th level rather than 23rd, but he’s still very powerful. We also get some full stat blocks for Lord Gunthar Uth Wistan, who is a rival of Derek Crownguard and both seek the seat of Grand Master (whose position is appointed by the Knight’s Grand Council).

11. There’s a vampire cleric of Sargonnas working in Lord Soth’s undead army. He has infiltrated the High Clerist’s Tower in search of a way to rally the ghostly forces within to serve the deathknight. Put privately he’s after a crown worn by the evil priest of Sargonnas believed to be interred within the tomb, in hopes that it will free him from Soth’s service. This Crown of Kurnos is equivalent to a Book of Vile Darkness, and wearing it counts as though reading from that accursed tome.

12. There’s no Battleystem rules, but there’s a side-bar detailing the numbers and divisions of the opposing armies during the battle along with brief statistics (60 2nd level human fighters, 180 bozak draconians, etc) for specific divisions along with their leaders if applicable.

13. The random treasure location table for the Tower has slightly altered magic item results, notably the replacement of artifact-level items such as the Book of Exalted Deeds/Infinite Spells with lesser yet still potent options like Bracers of Archery, Greater or Mace of Disruption. Additionally, each room is noted as a Possible Goal Artifact Location for things like the chess piece, Dragon Orb (yes there’s two), etc.

14. Some of the room-specific encounters have been incorporated into a random encounter table which the DM can trigger when the parties enter a new room or if there’s been a lul in action. Some of them have been altered a bit: the gully dwarves’ “secret mission” to find ‘the great steel marble’ was a result of a cleric of Morgion (disease and rot god) tricking them into recovering the Dragon Orb for himself. One member of the wandering kenders is given a stat block and name (Kipper Snifferdoo) and is actually a new cleric of Gilean (god of knowledge and leader of the Neutral gods). There’s a wingless undead dragon abomination known as “Sthank” which the aforementioned vampire cleric let loose in the tower to preemptively kill any living opposition that may be encountered in the Tower.

15. Vindar of Khurman, the guy who issues a one on one combat challenge to one of the Knights in the tower, has a more fully-realized stat block. He’s armed with a Sword of Life-Stealing which can bestow negative levels on an enemy and give the user temporary HP.

16. In the novels, Derek Crownguard met a most undignified end. In the AD&D version his fate is left up in the air and his only mention is for a leader stat block in the Battlesystem. But in 3rd Edition he will be one of the commanders who desperately mounts a suicidal run (“things will only get worse so we attack now) and the fate of him and those under his command is left to the GM. In AD&D, Crownguard’s PC card shows up in the next module, so I presume he is meant to survive.

Edit: Derek only performs this maneuver if the Knights' morale drops low enough (8 or less).

17. Although implied in the original AD&D version due to its sacred status, in 3rd Edition it is explicitly mentioned that Derek Crownguard and NPC/DMPC Knights will not accompany the PCs into the High Clerist’s Tower.

18. For PCs scouting into the enemy encampments proper, we have stat blocks for Bozak Elite Guardsmen (Bozak with levels in Sorcerer)* along with tougher-than-usual Baaz soldiers (levels in Fighter). In AD&D they were just run of the mill variety of draconian.

*In Dragonlance's 4th Age (the time of the Chronicles) spontaneous casters such as sorcerers did not exist, and Bards did not have magical powers (the Master class from War of the Lance was a partial substitute). However, dragons, fey, and other beings with an innate tie to the land and cosmos of creation could access such power without being bound to a god or the moons, and Bozak and Aurak draconians were natural sorcerers. However, the Dragonarmy propaganda taught that said draconians gained their power from Takhisis herself in an attempt to keep them in line.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 03:01 on Dec 20, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

PurpleXVI posted:

I was going to mention this bit more, except... there are no stats for the Palanthus units, plus by the time the party has the treasure in the High Clerist's Tower, they can just bust out Yarus and the Ghost Guys anyway. It'd work if they could bribe them with the promise of treasure instead... but even then, no rules for it. Not even a suggestion that the assistance of another army would give the Solamnic Knights a morale boost.

The pre-presence of a Dragon Orb at the High Clerist's Tower always bugged me a bit. Like... the Dragon Orb from Icewall would have a narrative use if there wasn't one at the Tower, so the players could still activate the dragon trap, but as it is, it's just... pointless. It has no purpose in the story.

My theory is that there was concern that the PCs may somehow miss the Dragon Orb in Sleet's treasure hoard in Icewall Castle. But that feels like an rear end-pull. Also the discussion of the possibility of Feal-Thas surviving and returning later at the Stone Dragon in Dragons of Light, it makes me wonder if the Icewall Castle section was at some point an optional detour.


I had genuinely expected the module to kill off Sturm in this section, unless I misremembered his death from this bit. In each book it mentions that sometimes the narrative will call on a PC/NPC to die permanently, so I had expected a bit more of a bloodbath among PC's, I suppose.

Slight correction on my part: Derek only performs this if the Knights' morale drops low enough (8 or less).


Also Christ I completely forgot Theodenes the instant after he appeared. I suppose technically he and Vanderjack are also still with the party and at this point they've got a small army of hangers-on of their own, not counting all the animals, since it never specifically says when most of them actually leave.

Vanderjack and Silvart are called out as potential DMPCs to accompany the party into the Tower, along with Theodenes.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

FoldableHuman posted:

Something I didn't see mentioned in the Dragonlance setting overviews is that the AD&D version of the world is capped at level 18, and if you level up to 19 then one of four things happens:

You voluntarily forgo the level and stay 18 but retain XP total
Raistlin shows up and tells you to piss off somewhere else and if you don't go willingly he yeets you off to Forgotten Realms
Takhisis shows up and maybe offers you "protection" to allow you to be level 19+ and if you don't accept she yeets you off to Forgotten Realms
Paladine shows up and yeets you off to Forgotten Realms

Also some fun wackiness that happens later in the series: there's an entire plot arc at the start of Fifth Age (the period following the whole fight with Daddy Chaos) where dragons are absorbing magical power and every time they do it makes them physically larger. So Kitiara's blue dragon, Skie, is the size of a football stadium by the end. Also he's super obsessed with either resurrecting Kitiara or just finding her soul because he really, really, really wants to tap that.

I cannot speak much on the Fifth Age's wackiness, but the arbitrary level cap was an attempt to keep the world of Dragonlance "low-powered" in comparison to the more high octane settings like Faerun. But in a very 80s game design way.

It's a bit jarring on account that there's a few exceptions. I don't know their AD&D stats, but the three Robe Order leaders of High Sorcery are implied to be incredibly powerful. In 3rd Edition they ranged from 18th to 20th level. There's also the whole thing with Yarus in the High Clerist's Tower. Ariakas is epic level (23rd in AD&D and 3rd) but given he's Takhisis' representative on Krynn it's understandable he gets an exception.

Gunthar Uth Wistan gets up there in levels too IIRC, once he becomes Solamnic Grandmaster.

But in the 3rd Edition sourcebooks this level cap is never mentioned.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 08:47 on Dec 21, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

StratGoatCom posted:

The various weird cult leaders in the futurist community who run outfits like MIRI, Lesswrong or the Lifeboat Foundation.

This song led me to this Rational Wiki page

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Dragons of Deceit: 3rd Edition Changes

This is the last blog post I ever wrote on my own campaign. I did complete the Chronicles, it’s just that all this writing was quite a bit of work.

1. Lord Gunthar Uth Wistan is not a playable PC option. On a similar note, the “obscure death” rule is lifted here in the AD&D manual:


Remember that player characters are no longer subject to the obscure death rule. If a PC dies, he's gone forever!

Given in 3rd Edition that divine resurrection is easily a thing at this level (12th-13th) this is not as large a hindrance as it is in AD&D.

2. On a similar note the character D’argent is impersonating is not under PC control. Given she is shape-shifting rather than using magic jar spell (mind-swap bodies) she never assumes her true dragon form unless the PCs are fighting an evil dragon (such as Harkiel in Sanction). She is still a powerful option when taking humanoid form in 3e, as she has access to 6th-level spells.

3. We have brief role-play write-ups on two characters in Palanthas: Captain Karyzzal who can lend the PCs a ship to sail to Sanction, and Lord Amothus who...doesn’t really do much of anything.

4. The Tower of High Sorcery generates a powerful fear effect preventing people from walking up to it. It is more vague in AD&D, but in 3rd Edition its outer limit is given mention that it functions as a Fear spell at 20th caster level. Any closer than 500 feet is an auto-fail and can affect even beings immune to fear. In AD&D the limit is 100 feet instead.

5. If the PCs meet and rescue Fizban at sea (or in the alternate land encounter), it will mention that he and D’argent will not be on speaking terms during this adventure due to the combat between the two during Dragons of Light. The adventure will also mention that he can do a one-time “fall guy” bail-out if the PCs end up captured in Sanction or ‘inadvertently’ wander into a trap or hazard which the party failed to notice.

6. Several encounters are changed a bit: the adult blue dragon who the PCs can encounter at sea is much stronger and has more staying power than his AD&D counterpart. Howevering, spells such as Shivering Touch and save-or-die/lose spells can still make for a quick combat. A potential save-or-die hazard of whirlpools at sea will not kill PCs who end up in a sinking ship. Given how many different types of races/spells/feats/etc exist in 3rd Edition, rules are instead given for how strong the whirlpool’s current is and how long it takes for the ship to sink to the bottom of the sea. Also Swim checks for swimming out of reach. Patrolling scrags (aquatic trolls) are higher in number from 4 to 11 and led by a leader with levels in Ranger.

8. Land encounters are a bit different, and have static number of enemies instead of rolling randomly. The random number of dragons at Vingaard keep is kept at 2 instead of 1d6, while the war parties Dargaard Mountains number only 20 hobgoblins to fight instead of 40.

9. Warren Windsound, a rebel leader in the swampy Dragonarmy terrain of Estwilde, got some stat upgrades. He’s a multi-class Fighter/Rogue of a total level of 10; in AD&D he was just a 5th level Fighter.

10. Now that 3rd Edition has been released after Final Fantasy VI, you can now play this iconic “evil empire city” music when the PCs visit Sanction.

11. This has applied to some prior settlements such as Tarsis and Palanthas, but 3rd Edition has city stat blocks: mentioning the alignment of the governing power, the people of note, racial and class demographics (D&D, not economic) and so on. Sanction’s rather novel in that it also lists the breakdown of the city guard and Red Dragonarmy presence, listing the number of soldiers of each class (the Red Dragonarmy Reserve Company has 2 7th-level Fighters, 18 2nd-level Fighters, etc).

12. Instead of a random encounter generator of who to meet on the streets and their race and class, there’s a more brief and holistic overview: the city is filled with dangerous violent people attracted by the Dragonarmies’ promises of wealth and power, the soldiers are belligerent, while the original human natives who lived here before their rise work in the service sector such as taverns, inns, and shops catering to the soldiers and mercs.

13. Several named encounters in the city have more detail: witnessing ogres fighting human mercenaries provides stats if the PCs intervene. In an encounter between an ogre-minotaur clash, PCs who aid the ogres will have the giants clap them on the back, saying “you small folk aren’t so bad after all” and advise them on which army camps to avoid.

14. Technically part of changed encounters but important in that it acknowledges the possibility of pulling a fast on one an otherwise overwhelming opposition: PCs who see Emperior Ariakas’ procession have the opportunity to follow it to the Temple of Luerkhisis (entering is another matter) and thus gain a clue of where Ansalon’s emperor stays while in Sanction. If the PCs are brave or canny enough to rescue one of the slaves, they learn that his name is Nathan and he and the other slaves were freedom fighters part of a local insurgency. The slaves (both in this encounter and imprisoned in the Temple of Luerkhisis) are similarly-martial and have some decent stats (5th-level Warriors) who can at least cause a dent in some of the weaker enemies through sheer numbers if liberated; in AD&D they are not trained in combat.

15. Penalties to resist breaking under torture are a DC 20 Constitution roll rather than rolling a d20 under your Constitution score to succeed, which makes it much harder. Certain feats can provide bonuses, such as Iron Will and Endurance. The torturer is given a name and stats, a hobgoblin rogue named Lord Craven, accompanied by an ogre barbarian named Grunk the Ogre (i’m not repeating myself, this is how the adventure stat block refers to him).

16. There’s a lot less handouts, like the artwork on dragonlances and saddles for dragonriders, Lord Gunthar’s personal journal while he travels with the PCs, and a full-page artwork of Silvart/D’argent in both her elf and dragon forms. A bit of a sad loss IMO.

17. Remember that Mob template I mentioned back in Dragons of Ice? Well it’s actually used for Dragonarmy soldiers this time! But only humans, goblins, and hobgoblins and not draconians, ogres, or minotaurs.

18. In the giant army camp (ogres, minotaurs, trolls, etc) PCs in the AD&D version will be bullied mercilessly by soldiers of said races looking for a fight. In 3rd Edition monster stats are listed as merely potential encounters.

19. There are no random encounters in the Temple of Heurzyd, with empty rooms filled up with more appropriate encounters. In AD&D they included things like swarms of rats/carrion crawlers/stirges and possibly some draconians, but one room has a beefy Elder Black Pudding ooze. Same thing for the Temple of Duerghast, but with more Dragonarmy soldiers and captured arena animals instead of scavenging vermin. A penned dire tiger, if communicated with via magic, can join the party out of gratitude.

20. The Temple of Luerkhisis (Ariakas’ dwelling and secret dwelling of the good dragon eggs) has its front gates guarded by two shifts of a rotating pair of red and white dragons; the white one is less attentive and thus is easier to sneak past with a suitable disguise. Ariakas can be encountered during the day, presiding over an assembly in the audience hall.

21. Clerics of Takhisis are renamed Dark Pilgrims of Takhisis. Those within the Dragon Empire’s territory who shown the right amount of competence as well as Lawful Evilness have the chance to undergo clerical training in one of the large religious centers, thus engendering a sort of pilgrimage; they were detailed in a spin-off novel but became a bonafide prestige class in 3rd Edition (sort of a cleric/rogue hybrid, but which only the priest corrupting the good dragon eggs has levels in in this adventure). They are much stronger level-wise, being 9th-level Clerics with access to some pretty debilitating spells (Dispel Magic, Blind/Deafness, Confusion, etc), whereas in AD&D they were merely 3 Hit Die enemies.

22. Ariakas’ bedroom has a Mirror of Life Trapping in both versions, but in 3rd Edition there’s an internal mechanism of a swift-moving tapestry to cover it which can throw off observes (who may think it was the tapestry and not the concealed mirror which caused a person to disappear). The Emperor’s personal treasure room also has several potions and a bandolier holding sheathes of various wands.

23. One of the secret entrances into a tunnel beneath the temple is guarded by an ice devil (gelugon).

24. The copper dragon prisoner has been tortured, poisoned by Wisdom-draining substances, and threatened by Emperor Ariakas himself that 100 eggs will be destroyed for every intruder which gets past him. His addled mental state is a result of the aforementioned trauma rather than in AD&D him being “not very bright.”

25. The stats for the baby sivak draconians are excised and presumed to be treated as noncombatants due to this.

26. To make up for the loss of prior handouts, we get an illustration of the corruption of the good dragon eggs:

27. Since D’argent is not a PC she will automatically offer one of the heroes to ride on her back during the aerial assault of Sanction. In AD&D it was up to the player controlling her whether or not to allow such a cool thing.

28. We have a totally badass illustration of the metallic dragons flying to war:

29. Saving this for the end, but of the major NPCs Emperor Ariakas underwent some changes: he’s multi-classed 23rd level character in both, but in AD&D he’s a Cleric/Fighter who does not have a full spell list but can be presumed to have any conceivable lower-level spell on hand. In 3rd Edition he’s an arcane spellcaster instead, with levels in Wizard and Knight of the Thorn for his spellcasting, with Fighter, Legendary Tactician, and Dragon Highlord for his martial side. Technically speaking the Knight of the Thorn is an Age of Mortals thing for spellcasting Knights of Takhisis, but as Ariakas is meant to be the ur-concept he has levels in a Prestige Class that doesn’t yet exist.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 09:19 on Dec 27, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Chapter One: Wizards of Ansalon

Dragonlance was in a rather interesting position during the 3rd Edition era of gaming. Albeit an official setting, Wizards of the Coast wanted to focus on its three major worlds for publishing: Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk (albeit in bits and pieces), and the soon-to-be-released Eberron. In 2003 the company released a main campaign setting book for Dragonlance, but for further sourcebooks and material gave limited licensing rights to Sovereign Press for 5 years, which then became Margaret Weis Productions around 2007. The then-new studio had a lot of material to draw from, so they began with the most well-known aspects. During the first year, priority was placed on setting sourcebooks for the most iconic eras: the War of the Lance and Age of Mortals, the latter of which was already an unpopular setting among fans. Ironically loaned out to yet another third party studio,* it was considered the worst book of the 3e Dragonlance era.

*Fast Forward Entertainment.

But beyond the “setting” sourcebooks Sovereign Press needed ones for the other iconic features: the honorable Knights of Solamnia, the power of the gods, the time-traveling shenanigans from the Legends trilogy, and eventually a 3rd Edition conversion of the original Chronicles were all planned for and eventually published! In tackling this monumental feat, Sovereign Press started with Krynn’s color-coded wizardly orders with a book dedicated to them and all things arcane.

Towers of High Sorcery is a mixture of fluff and crunch; in addition to the oodles of new feats, prestige classes, and mechanics which were the highlight of the D20 system, the book goes into detail on the society and philosophy of the Orders and other wizardly organizations of Ansalon. It also covers those dabblers and renegade mages who choose to remain independent.

The Gift of Magic

Our book opens up with a brief discussion of arcane magic, also known as sorcery. It is the metaphysical clay which the gods used to create reality, and which mortals could use the ability at a lesser (yet no less wondrous) rate. In times long past arcane magic was a raw and barely controlled energy which mortals could directly access. It was known as Primal Sorcery, and when utilized during the distant Age of Dreams its destructive power caused the three Gods of Magic to institute more precise formulas and rituals as safety measures This form of magic is called High Sorcery to distinguish it from its older counterpart; its use is referred to as the Art, and practitioners of the Art are known as wizards. Three orders were set up to research, study, and regulate its use, associated with with their patron deity’s moral outlook on how to best harness magic. Solinari, the white moon, was the conscience of wizards and taught his followers to use their powers for the common good. Lunitari, the red moon, represented the balance and taught her followers to prioritize magical research in and of itself and is thus neutral. Nuitari, the black moon which can only be seen by the Black Robes, encourages followers to gain power irregardless of moral reservations and is thus evil. But unlike divine magic, High Sorcery’s ability to be accessed by practically anyone with the right materials and tomes meant that independent mages could learn this Art for themselves.

Creatures with natural spellcasting such as dragons still retain primal sorcery, but this power would remain locked away from the majority of races until the breaking of the Graygem of Gargath and the arrival of Chaos into the world.

The talent for wizardry is not something a person is born with; the pre-magical lives of many wizards differ widely, although they most often come from educated backgrounds where literacy is available, making their numbers relatively low in the current Ages. In times long past the Conclave, the primary governing body of the Orders of High Sorcery, sent representatives in search of people who displayed talent and/or interest in the arcane arts, with formal tests to determine their worthiness.

3rd Edition Notes: Arcane casting classes which require a spellbook or some sort of formal training are counted as High Sorcery/wizards, while those which are spontaneous casters (spells become known as you “level up” and don’t need a spellbook) are counted as Primal Sorcery/sorcerers.

Only the elven nations still maintain wizardly aptitude tests; most countries in Ansalon have varying degrees of anti-magic sentiment due to the power mages wield as well as political and religious reasons. In the Fifth Age, the Age of Mortals, some among the Orders have applied these standards to wielders of primal sorcery as well, although their existence and how best to deal with them is a hot-button issue among the Conclave.

Most arcane education in modern times takes two forms: individual master-apprentice relationships or boarding schools where teachers preside over classrooms of students. The former is by far the most common, and lessons widely differ and are often restricted to the skill set of the mentor in question. The latter is rarer due to the amount of money and resources required. Magic schools beyond Wayreth only really took off after the War of the Lance, when Raistlin’s fame in fighting the Dragonarmies began to turn public sentiment more favorably to wizards. The Orders used to have five Towers of High Sorcery which were the Ivy League equivalents of magic schools, but only the Tower of Wayreth still serves its original purpose. Arcane schools can gain funding from the Conclave but must abide by a set of universal standards: schooling lasts for 8 months from autumn to spring, dorm rooms are gender-segregated (to “avoid distractions from studies”), students under 16 years of age require a legal guardian’s permission to enroll, and class subjects are split into categories of novice/intermediate/advanced.

But there is one formality which the Conclave applies to all wizards of sufficient skill, formally-trained or no: the Test of High Sorcery. Perhaps the most iconic and feared ritual of the Orders, the Test is just as much an inward moral assessment as it is testing the competence of the wizard in question. Whether as simple as finding a letter mysteriously appearing in one’s dwelling or consciously seeking it out by one’s own hand or mentor, the prospective mage travels to the Tower of Wayreth* and meets with senior wizards to determine if they’re ready.

*The other four Towers were capable of administering Tests, but their destruction during the Kingpriest’s purges reduced the Test to the last remaining Tower.

The Test is individually customized based on the skill set and background of the test-taker, and the intention is to make the wizard aware of their strengths and follies and what path in life they wish to take in life. But every Test has two questions of vital importance: “is there anything more important to you than the gift of magic?” “And when challenged, will you sacrifice those things for the Art?”

The weight of these words is vital, for those who fail the Test are executed; even the good-aligned White Robes deemed it a lesser evil to kill unworthy students than pass powerful magic into their hands which can inflict potentially greater harm. To those wizards who pass, they are given a set of colored robes inducting them into one of the three Orders, and often bear some physical or emotional scar as a reminder of their trials. Official membership in an Order comes with many material benefits from an expanded formal social network of peers.

I can’t help but feel that the “pursue magic beyond all other affairs” is biased heavily in favor of the Red and Black robe ideologies, perhaps the Reds more than the Blacks. The Black Robes’ emphasis on selfish power precludes moral concerns, but on the other hand one can argue that said selfishness may be detrimental to magical innovation and research if say, they suppressed knowledge so as to retain a position of uncontested eldritch power. The Reds may be a bit “enlightened centrists” in regards to the Balance, but knowledge for knowledge’s sake lines up best with these questions. And while the penalty for failing the Test is made known to all prospects (and can refuse to take the Test provided they stop honing their magical skills henceforth) the use of murder can be seen as a rather large moral compromise among some gaming groups.

We then get a brief rundown on the political structure of wizards; this is expanded on in chapters three and four, but for now we get the basics. The previously-mentioned Conclave is a council of twenty-one wizards which has a governing Head who steps in when the council cannot come to a decision. Any member of the Orders can theoretically join the Conclave, but it is a lifetime membership and applicants must demonstrate sole loyalty to the Orders and magic beyond all other concerns, which typically means that they forsake prior political and national loyalties.

Furthermore, each Order of High Sorcery has a Master of its own, while each Tower of High Sorcery is presided over by a Master who is ultimately responsible for its affairs. There’s not much discussion of how one becomes an Order Master, but a Tower Master is chosen from a list of candidates assembled by the Conclave. The wizard’s skill set, as well as their community ties with the Tower’s region and the political make-up Orderwise, are all considered. Once chosen the Master becomes responsible for the Tower’s day-to-day upkeep and undergoes a ritual to merge their life force with the Tower’s essence. This grants them an unbreakable supernatural hold over the building’s foundations and the surrounding environs.

Interspersed throughout this section are some small in-character notes and letters by notable wizards from the setting, such as Raistlin and Dalamar. We even get stats for the two, although the former only as a 1st-level apprentice when he was just 16 years of age. I have no idea in what campaign you’d use this besides either time-travel or a pre-War of the Lance magic school campaign.

Races & Wizardry

Although it can be said in general terms that sorcery is a rare and feared art in Ansalon, the various cultures and races have approached the Art differently. The fact that its use knows no racial or cultural boundaries* means that the Wizards of High Sorcery often insert themselves into every community of note during the current Age of Mortals. In some cases it may be as formal as a small keep or outpost, while others may be a single wizard or small band venturing between settlements.

*Although inherent Intelligence/Charisma modifiers can make certain groups more naturally gifted at its manipulation than others.

Humans tend to number the highest among wizards in spite of the elves being more tolerant due to human flexibility and their population spreading evenly throughout Ansalon. The city-dwelling and formal nations are more trusting of the arcane arts than rural and nomadic humans, but this isn’t much of an improvement. Even commoners give wizards a wide berth unless the individual mage in question can be trusted and has existing community ties. In Solamnia the governing Knights don’t exactly trust them but they’re not outright hated, while in Khur the populace overwhelmingly hates arcanists save for the Mikku tribe who are often regarded as the oddball group by their peers.

They’re put in their own individual categories, but the Half-X Races tend to join the Orders or take up arcane spellcasting due to being either socially isolated or caught between two cultures. As a result, they find some comfort in a community they can call their own. The exception are half-kender, who inherited a bit of their kender parentage’s side and find it hard to focus on their studies.

Elves hold arcane magic in high regard, but ones who join the Red or Black Robes become outcasts in their community. The Silvanesti have a formal House Mystic which has a joint relationship with the White Robes, while the Qualinesti capital had its own arcane school and their proximity to the Tower of Wayreth meant that they worked together on many projects. The Kagonesti wild elves are an exception in that they have no formal institutions and thus have less wizards (but not much of a social stigma against htem), while the sea elves tend to practice magic independent of the Orders. Sea elf renegades cannot be easily brought in line by the Orders on account of the difficulties of long-term undersea travel, even with magic.

The Ogre Races are an interesting case study. The initial chosen of Takhisis once presided over the first mighty civilization, but it fell due to cruelty and slave rebellions. The modern-day fallen ogres lack the intelligence or resources to study wizardry, and thus tend to treat wizards as threats. The exception are ogre magi, offspring believed to be a throwback to their first empire. Ogre magic tend to be revered for their power, and as a rule they don’t bother joining the Orders due to having their own formal network of master-apprentice relationships.

The Irda, those good-aligned ogres who weren’t cursed with ugliness for their evil ways, often live as solitary travelers posing as elves when away from their island homes. While they count a large amount of wizards among their ranks, they view themselves as being too rational and wise to need self-regulation. They treat the Orders of High Sorcery in a back-handed condescending way, viewing it primarily a “worthy institution for the lesser races” who they regard as irrational and aggressive and thus in need of a guiding hand.

Minotaurs view arcane magic as a crutch that the weaker races use to make up for physical shortcomings, and its use in battle is seen as dishonorable. As a result, the majority of minotaur wizards are those who are weaker than most of their kin and turned to alternative practices to minimize their shortcomings. The ones living among their races’ seafaring empire are renegade mages and focus on spells ideal for warfare given that such sorcery is the kind their people at least grudgingly respect. The minotaurs who leave their homeland have it even harder, in that they’re making a conscious choice to abandon their people; as a result, minotaur wizards that join the Orders are already outcasts among outcasts.

Dwarves have a long-standing cultural distrust of wizards due to the archmage Fistandantilus’ participation in the Dwarfgate Wars. After the Cataclysm fell, many old trade routes and communities were destroyed, leading to a massive food shortage in the dwarven kingdom of Thorbadin. The mountain dwarf clans barred the Neidar, or hill dwarves, from entering their ancestral homeland as the rest of the world became more dangerous.

This ‘betrayal’ caused the Neidar to ally with various human factions to break through the gates of Thorbadin, Fistantantilus among them. The archmage cast a cataclysmic spell which devastated both armies and led to a premature end of the War. Thus the hill dwarves hate wizards due to fear of being betrayed again, while the mountain dwarves remember how close Fistandantilus’ magic brought their kingdom to destruction.

An exception exists among the “dark dwarf” clans. The Theiwar clan are long-standing practitioners of wizardry in an organization known as the Obsidian Circle. The Circle pays devotion to Nuitari and have an alliance with the Black Robes even though they’re technically renegades. While the Theiwar count many primal sorcerers among the populace, the Circle regards them as threats to be destroyed. The Daegar often learn from the Theiwar, and prefer magic which can enhance their physical abilities and objects. The Zhakar, or dwarves infected with a race-wide fungal parasite, do not much care for High/Primal divides and accept whatever magic is practical for learning.

There are no recorded instances of gully dwarf wizards, not even minor dabblers, due to their races’ legendary stupidity, although there are a few primal sorcerers reported in recent years.

Gnomes are curious about magic as they are with just about anything which can be studied and researched. But they tend to regard its practice with disdain when so many spells can be replicated (either practically or in theory) by machinery. They study wizardry as a means of understanding magical cause and effect, and their cultural peculiarities means they almost always conduct such research in their city of Mount Nevermind rather than the continental schools or Towers. The gnomes have produced more than a few genuine wizards among their ranks, whose spellbooks are even larger and more baroque than usual. There are no known examples of gnomes who took the Test, not even the more powerful ones. In the latter case, such gnome archmages mostly lived uneventful lives in Mount Nevermind consumed by research rather than more earthly concerns. As a result, they more or less go unnoticed by the Orders.

Kender love magic, but the feeling among wizards is not mutual. Their whimsical nature means that formal training is a nightmare for mentors and teachers, although the Afflicted Kender (a subrace that became traumatized by the destruction of their home city) are better suited to learning but tend to be suspicious of the Orders. Some kender conspiracy theorists have claimed that there’s an Order-wide effort to prevent them from learning magic.

Centaurs overall violently hate arcane magic, and instead give credence to divine magic as practiced for generations. A few young centaurs who left their tribes to travel the world are more open-minded and thus a few joined the Orders.

Draconians are a young race who post-War of the Lance are finding their way in the world. They have been most familiar with the Black Robes, often serving them as minions. Draconians overall are more likely to be primal sorcerers, although only the auraks (who are the smartest and most magically-proficient) and the bozaks (who were trained as highly-disciplined ‘mage-warriors’) show inclination to High Sorcery in any conceivable number. There are rumors of some sivaks who used their shapechanging abilities to take the identities of murdered wizards to learn the Art, but nothing can be proven.

High Sorcery and Arcane Prestige Classes

The final section of the first chapter covers new class options for the wizards of Ansalon as well as an updated reprint of the Wizard of High Sorcery prestige class from the main setting book. One thing I would like to note is that while some of these PrCs may be better than others, none of them are a real ‘downgrade’ to the core Wizard class barring the Sylvan Mage exception. This is because the Wizard’s class features are mostly spellcasting and a bonus feat every 5 levels, and magical prestige classes grant more spells per day of an existing casting class during their progression. The Wizard of High Sorcery, Dreamshaper, Sea Mage, Spell Broker, and Winternon are all full progression, while the Griffon Wizard and Renegade Hunter grant +1 level of progression every odd-numbered level and are only 5 levels long, meaning you only lose out 2 levels at most. The Dark Dwarf Savant’s the odd man out, a level 10 class with a total of +7 levels in an existing casting class, and the Sylvan Mage is a 10 level class which grants casting progression every odd-numbered level.

Wizard of High Sorcery is a Prestige Class symbolizing those who completed the Test and formally joined one of the three Orders. I covered it in a prior review of the Dragonlance Campaign Setting, but the major change here is that you no longer have to specialize in a school to qualify. Non-specialist wizards have to choose a specialty school favored by their order and are thus treated as one from then on out, but those who were already specialists gain even greater power (+1 caster level and saving throw DC on related spells) at the expense of choosing an additional prohibited school. Overall it’s a pretty solid choice for specialist wizards, and some of the Order Secrets are pretty good.

Dark Dwarf Savants are worshipers of Nuitari and established ties with her aforementioned Order during the Age of Mortals. They count sorcerers among their ranks as well and tend to plot various evil schemes in the mountain kingdom of Thorbadin. Their primary class features include the manifestations of magical mutations which grant +2 to an ability score of choice per selection but become more resistant to healing spells; the ability to permanently sacrifice up to 3 spell slots to prepare a spell as a spell-like ability (which allows them to avoid gold/steel piece cost but must spend the virtual currency as more expensive experience points); and bonus item creation feats.

The Savant loses 3 levels worth of casting class progression, but the ability to turn certain spells into spell-like abilities has some pretty powerful potential.

Dreamshapers are illusionists of Lunitari who study dreams and the Ethereal Plane to gain increased power over mortal perceptions. They were instrumental in rebuilding Silvanesti after the War of the Lance, when nightmare-spawned horrors were still numerous. They can coordinate efforts among their number to power all of their spells, using the mechanics of Faerun’s Red Wizards from the Dungeon Master’s Guide as part of a wider “dream circle.” Their other class features include saving throw bonuses against illusion and mind-affecting spells equal to their class level, and a +1 to +3 bonus on illusion (phantasm) spells depending on their class level. They have some steep prerequisites in terms of minimum level (you’ll be 10th when you gain your first PrC level) but overall they’re a pretty solid choice for illusionists, moreso if you have a Leadership cohort who also takes levels in it to take advantage of the circle magic.

Griffon Wizards are elven warriors who gain a powerful bond with the eponymous flying beasts. They are most common among the aristocracy and martial orders of the Silvanesti and Qualinesti, and are exclusively White Robe wizards of Solinari. They gain a griffon as a unique familiar (and cannot have an existing one), but is more in line offensively as a paladin mount. They gain bonuses on concentration checks to maintain spells while riding their mount (which ranges from +5 to +10), and can gain temporary bonuses to their Strength and Fortitude saving throws (or Charisma and Reflex) as they draw on the power of their mount’s bond.

Their level 5 capstone feature lets them auto-succeed on all concentration checks while riding their mount. To non-D20 readers, a concentration check is rolled whenever a spellcaster takes damage or is in environmental conditions which can distract their spellcasting. Concentration DCs can climb really high with damage, and what this means is that a Griffon Wizard can pretty much cast spells without worry. With the aid of a flying mount, this is another solid class and only 5 levels to boot.

Renegade Hunters are wizards charged with keeping the power of the Art out of the hands of the unworthy. Sometimes it may involve teaching a renegade the boons of formal membership in the Orders, while other times it is a more violent choice resulting in the arrest or death of the renegade. Its prerequisites are a bit unorthodox, with skills and feats themed around investigative measures (Gather Information, Sense Motive, the Track feat, etc). Their class features revolve around the countering and shutting down of enemy magic and include things such as: treating their patron moon as being in a more favorable alignment 1/day*; automatically learn the Detect Lie spell and Mark of Justice spells at 2nd and 4th levels; can afflict an enemy wizard as though they had a patron moon being in Waning/Low Sanction*; and their 5th level capstone ability can let them temporarily reduce their own caster level and cause a target within 30 feet to suffer an equally reduced caster level 1/day for a limited number of rounds. Caster Levels lost this way can dip to as low as 0, which can eliminate the ability to cast spells at all!

*Order wizards’ DCs and Caster Levels can suffer bonuses and penalties depending on their phases.

The Renegade Hunter has some pretty potent anti-magic countermeasures, but they can only work on wizards and not arcane spellcasters in general, which drastically limits its use in most campaigns.

Sea Mage is a wizard who spent a lot of time at sea and learned to shape their magic in favor of their lifestyle. They are more physically inclined and less formal than most wizards, being closer to a sailor than a scholar in temperament. They are a full casting class up to 5 levels, but require a high base Reflex Save (+3) which means they need to multi-class to gain early entry. But in exchange they gain bonuses to skills related to seamanship; bonuses on Concentration and save DC when onboard a ship or in an aquatic environment; bonus feats related to agility and metamagic; and can affect an entire sea-going vessel with a single spell a limited number of times per day and can gain said spell’s benefits while in contact with the ship; and +1 caster level in regards to air and water based spells.

Dragonlance isn’t exactly known for nautical adventures, but I can definitely see this Prestige Class being used in Freeport or a more pirate-themed setting. The “target an entire ship with a spell” is open to some abuse, but its limited use per day keeps it in line.

Spell Brokers are the closest thing the Dragonlance setting has to “magical item shops.” They are wizards who utilize connections among merchant networks and communities to supply spellcasters with components and minor magical items, but mechanics-wise they are more akin to craftsmen. Spell Broker is a short 5 level full casting class and whose abilities are geared entirely towards item creation: they gain a bonus item creation feat every odd-numbered level, and can choose one among said feats to craft said items with a 10% reduction in gold and experience cost. They can transfer this feature every time they gain a new item creation feat, so they don’t have to be saddled with the mere scribing of scrolls when they learn how to create RINGS OF POWAH. Their other major feature is creating Items of Distinction and Renown at 2nd and 4th levels: they can reduce such costs by another 10% each and grant +1/+2 effective caster levels on the magic within said items for level-dependent variables and save DCs.

Another powerful class, which can be combined nicely with Eberron’s Artificer. Your party members will love you for this.

Sylvan Mages are those few wizards who came into contact with faeries and learned of their secrets. They are a level 10 PrC who only gains 1 effective spellcasting level every even level, the lowest of the classes here. This is a pretty big downgrade, so do the class features make up for it?

Well, not really. They gain some druidic class features such as wild empathy and the ability to cross unimpeded through natural foliage among other things, but what they get that druids do not are new Sylvan Rites every odd-numbered level. They permanently sacrifice a spell slot to learn a rite, and gain its use by meditating for 10 minutes in a natural setting. The Rites tend to be either 24 hour buffs to an ability score or the granting of a spell-like ability such as Speak with Animals, or a 3/day spell-like ability such as Sleep, Greater Invisibility, or Tree Stride. All in all, none of these features wow me or are something that seems worth the trade-off for more potential arcane spells already on the wizard’s spell list, and the spell-like abilities aren’t the kind which really benefit from being cast that way.

The Winternorn is our final Prestige Class, representing a tradition among the Ice Folk of Ansalon’s far south who learned to see into the River of Time. They specialize in divination and cold-based spells and are a full-casting 10 level class. Their class features include Cold Resistance which reduces damage from cold-based attacks and increases with level; can choose to change the energy damage of any spell they can cast to cold and grant the cold element subtype to summoned creatures*; and a limited number of times per day can see into their own or someone else’s wyrd and gain a +10 bonus on an Initiative, Knowledge, or Sense Motive check; and as their level 10 capstone ability gain the cold subtype which grants them immunity to cold-based damage but vulnerability to fire-based environments and elements.

*We get a new Cold Element subtype, which doesn’t really do much to a creature besides grant them bonus cold-damage on natural weapons, darkvision, damage reduction/magic, and the ability to treat icy terrain as normal terrain.

I really like the winternon, both in mechanics and thematics. The Wyrd ability is quite useful and can ensure that they go first (or close to first) in a fight when it matters.

Thoughts So Far: This chapter has a strong start. It has a good general overview of the history of arcane magic, what makes it different in the Dragonlance setting from divine magic, and examines how the various peoples of Ansalon view it. Its Prestige Classes are overall flavorful and have useful features.

Join us next time as we cover new spells and magic items in Chapter Two!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 05:23 on Dec 26, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Chapter Two: Spells & Magical Objects

Prior Chapter Notice: A reader pointed out that the minotaur's view of magic in battle as both "dishonorable" and "grudging respect" seems to contradict itself. While many IRL cultures have hypocritical traditions and wouldn't be out of place in fantasy worlds, the text itself doesn't really elaborate on this so it may be poor editing at play.

This part of the book is the other big “player-facing” side of Towers of High Sorcery. We have 31 new spells, 22 magic items able to be crafted by characters, and 11 artifacts. All of these entries include some options which have appeared in prior Dragonlance material but got updated to 3rd Edition.

We also get a magical lexicon and glossary of common concepts for words in Magius, the written form of arcane magic:


Each of these spells without exception can only be learned by sorcerers or wizards, and six of them are wizard-only. A few of the spells are related by subject manner, so I’m grouping them first, leaving the miscellaneous spells after them in alphabetical order.

Emulating the Divine: Wizards have long been jealous of the magic of the gods and sought various means of replicating their effects. In some cases they’ve been successful, but the end result often falls short of the real deal. Awaken the Mind is a limited-duration equivalent to the Druidic Awaken spell, granting sapience to a creature of the animal type. Life Transfer is one of the few spells which closely emulates divine healing. However, it drains hit points from a touched target and grants the damage as temporary hit points to the caster edit: but the caster can either heal half that temporary hit points as real hit points or transfer the energy into another touched creature one round later and they heal real damage up to the temporary hit point total. Reverse Death functions as raise dead but has a shorter window of time in which a person can be brought back to life, does not purify their body of poison or disease, is 9th-level, and the target must make a Will save upon revival or else die again. Shape of the Beasts enables the caster to transform themselves or a touched humanoid into an animal a la wildshape, but risk devolving to animal intelligence and instincts the longer they remain in that form. Truth-Testing is like Discern Lies but lower-level and single-target.

Inception: D&D Edition: These spells involve screwing around with a target’s memory or conjuring some mental dreamscape. Displace Memory removes 10 minutes per caster level of an unbroken sequence of memory from a target and implant it into the caster’s mind, and remains crystal clear within said mind for 1 day per caster level. Mindspin has a long casting time and hefty gp and xp requirements, but can plunge a target into an illusory nightmare world where they fight dreamshadows* and dreamwraiths* you can summon. Further failed saves grant various buffs to said monsters as they slip deeper into the nightmare. This spell has a Greater version which can work on one creature per caster level instead of a single target. Travel the Paths of the Mind is a rather involved spell which allows the caster and some other targets to travel into an individual’s memories, and can even pull out objects to take back into the real world. Albeit this last part comes with contested Will saves and the dangers and traps within the mindscape can be very real to travelers.

*monsters detailed in Chapter Six.

Spells of Timey Wimey Stuff: Reprinted later in Legends of the Twins, these spells involve manipulating the flow of the River of Time. Timeheal rewinds time so that the target’s wounds and ailments fade away (albeit with a 1 minute casting time, gp and xp costs, and a subject can only be affected 1/day by it) while Time Reaver is known only by the Masters of the Towers of High Sorcery but can theoretically be learned by a sorcerer. It opens up a portal which sends travelers 20 years backward or 1 year forward in time per Caster Level. But it comes with a hefty cost of money, experience, and the temporary depowering of a major artifact as an arcane focus.

Wizards Only: These spells can only be learned by Wizards, not Sorcerers, and are closely tied with the Conclave and/or Orders. Consensus is a 9th-level spell which is typically taught and cast by the highest-ranking Wizards of High Sorcery. It reserved for the purposes of voting on matters or in times of create crisis like the Kingpriest’s purges. It has an unlimited range where it can send a message up to 10 seconds long to all members of one particular Order, or members of all Orders. It is silent telepathy which can automatically overcome all mortal mental defenses, and those who receive it can return a one-word reply. The most popular response is filtered to the caster as a single answer.

There are five 7th-level spells keyed to particular Towers of High Sorcery. When cast upon a target they allow them to circumnavigate the Towers’ external defensive measures. Kiss of Night’s Guardian allows someone to be unaffected by Palanthas Tower’s aura of fear, while Touch of Guiding Light for the Tower of Wayreth allows one to find their way through the magical forest surrounding the Tower and an intuitive sense of its location. The three spells for the destroyed Towers (Song of Day’s Clarity, Vision of Dusk’s Eye, Whisper of Dawn’s Song) have been lost in modern Ages and will not be useful save in time-travel or pre-Cataclysm campaigns.

Arcane Eye, Greater is a 7th-level version of its 4th-level counterpart but grants you darkvision, low-light vision, and the true seeing spell which can penetrate illusions and ethereal/invisible things.

Arcane Staff allows you to infuse a nonmagical quarterstaff with spells up to a combined total of levels equaling your Caster Level. They remain within the staff until discharged, which is a useful way of gaining bonus spells per day if you’re settling down to rest for 8 hours or completed your current dungeon crawl/adventuring day. It also comes in Greater and Lesser variants which affect the max spell level of individual spells which can be stored.

Cleaning is a cantrip which does the clean function of Prestidigitation but affects a 5 foot cube instead of a 1 foot cube per casting. Superfluous.

Curse the Magi puts a debilitating curse on another arcane spellcaster. If they fail a Will save, every time they cast a spell they must roll another Will save or have said spell fail and suffer Constitution drain. It’s touch range but very debilitating.

Detect Familiar is exactly what it sounds like and is about as useful as you can imagine.

Disarm not only forces a target to drop a held weapon, they must roll a Will save every other time they attempt to grab a weapon during the spell’s duration.

Feign Life allows a corpse or undead creature to appear to have surface-level mundane indications of life (internal body temperature, beating heart, etc). It does not get rid of weaknesses of their type.

Giant’s Guise makes you appear one size category larger and grants +8 Intimidate to those who do not successfully disbelieve the illusion. Very useful for demoralize-centric builds.

Raistlin’s Wheel of Flame costs 250 gp worth of material components to cast making it quite the hefty price tag for a blasty damage spell. It’s a 60 foot radius burst which lasts for 1 round per caster level, dealing 1d6 fire damage on the first round, 2d6 on the second round, and so on and so forth to a maximum of 15d6. It’s stationary and takes a while to start dealing appreciable damage, which limits its usability in combat barring preparation, ambushes, and the means of forcing an opponent to stay within the AoE.

Stone Guardian summons one Medium earth elemental to serve the caster. It is basically akin to Summon Nature’s Ally IV which can accomplish the same thing, but is limited to that specific creature type, is 3rd-level rather than 4th, and Conjuration (Creation) rather than (Summoning) given that it is made from a clay figurine material component. This last part is rather important to highlight given that said elemental will not gain the boons of summoning-related buffs, which dampens the usefulness of said spell.

Suppress Magic temporarily suppresses the effects and usability of all magical items in a 10 foot radius and lasts for 1 round per level. This is a rather powerdebuff, although the radius is not implied to move from its location meaning that stricken opponents may escape with a single move action unless otherwise bound.

Transfer Essence causes a spellcasting target to suffer temporary negative levels, while the caster of the spell gains temporary level increases when determining the effects of their spells’ duration, damage die, overcoming Spell Resistance, and so on. The text notes that it’s common for more powerful spellcasters to have willing servants be afflicted with this spell so as to further power their master.

Magical Items

Given the high number of magical items in this section, I’m going to focus on the more interesting ones when possible.

Bracelet of Foresight can warn of danger 1/day and grant a sudden vision a la the Foresight spell for 10 minutes, and a constant +2 bonus on AC and Reflex saves.

Bracelets of Magic Resistance were made by the Black Robe Wizards because they’re the most likely to get into fights with other mages. The bracelet can absorb up to 25 levels worth of magic directed at the wearer before crumbling to dust, but are EVIL and bestow negative levels on lawful good wearers (but not neutral or chaotic good ones, oddly enough).

Cloak of Night gives you Darkvision, +2 to AC, +10 to Hide when shadows are present, and can cast Shadow Walk 1/day allowing you to teleport between shadows.

Golden Rings of Healing are prized possessions by wizards for they require the Timeheal spell to craft. They can heal the wearer up to 6 points of damage 1/day, and can bring a user up to 1 hit point if hit by an attack which would render them dying or dead. The ring’s magic forever ceases to work if this last event comes into play, however.

Gully Dwarf’s Emerald works only when the wearer is a naturally Small creature and is offered as a bribe to someone. Once this happens, the target’s filled with an overwhelming urge to claim it. When they touch the gem they suffer 3d6 Constitution damage and are paralyzed. The gem teleports after this into the hands of another potential user, and given said spell’s range makes this a gimmicky yet powerful one-off item at best.

Message Bottle is basically a magical tape recorder. It allows a speaker to communicate a message up to 10 words into the bottle and ‘trap’ the message inside with a rune-engraved cork. The next person to open the bottle then hears the message. The text specifically points out that it cannot be the verbal component of a spell. But it says nothing about words so loud that they deal sonic damage, but I presume the intent of the rules doesn’t allow for this either.

Ring of Projection can create a visual illusory double of the wearer up to 60 feet away.

A Ring/Robes/Staff of High Sorcery is keyed to one of the three Orders and bestows negative levels on a wear of incompatible alignment. Rings grants several minor boons to Order members only, such as at-will Detect/Read Magic, a free Enlarge Spell metamagic effect 1/day, and +2 on caster level checks to overcome spell resistance. Robes have similar prerequisites, but have more powerful boons: they grant sizable bonuses to saving throws, armor class, Spell Resistance, and +1 caster level on spells related to the Robe’s particular Order. A Staff can cast various spells by expending charges, with a set of universal powers and some additional spells based upon its relevant Order (illusion spells for Red, necromancy for Black, abjuration for White).

Scroll of Stellar Path causes a rift in time, causing one of the three moons to assume High Sanction (Waxing/Waning Gibbous and Full) in the sky and grant the benefits of +1 Caster Level and Spell DCs to the relevant Order wizards for 48 hours.

The Thieves’ Bane Pouch, is also known as a Kender’s Bane Pouch, is a command-operated Bag of Holding. Anyone who reaches into the bag without the proper command word is surrounded by a paralyzing force field on a failed Reflex save.


Most artifacts in Dragonlance were created by the gods during the Age of Starbirth, or by powerful spellcasters during the Age of Dreams and whose effects cannot be replicated today. In modern Ages no known artifacts have been created save for whatever Raistlin Majere might have worked on in his magical research.* The ones in this book have a relationship with the Orders of High Sorcery and hold significant historical value to wizards.

*yes the book calls him out by name.

Artifacts of the Moon Gods: Bracers of Solinari were believed to be crafted by the good God of Magic himself. They grant the wearer a bevy of constant defensive benefits (AC bonus, Spell Resistance against other spellcasters based upon their tradition/class) as well as the ability to cast Spectral Hands 3/day (make touch spells at range) and Dispel Magic 1/day. Also the wearer can cast a spell as if Solinari was in High Sanction 1/day. If said moon is already in High Sanction then it works as though it were in conjunction with another moon at High Sanction, or treated as the Night of the Eye (all 3 full moons) if two moons are already gibbous/full.

Nuitari’s Shroud is the more sinister counterpart to the Bracers of Solinari. It can only be worn safely by Black Robe Wizards and has similar features to the bracers (defensive abilities, treat their patron moon as High Sanction, etc). The major difference is that it casts Gaseous Form 3/day and Shadow Walk 1/day.

Finally, Shield of Lunitari is the neutral artifact of the trio and is treated as a +5 buckler with no arcane spell failure chance or armor check penalty. It casts Spell Reflection and Wall of Force as its 3/day and 1/day abilities along with the universal defensive and moon god artifact defaults. I find the shield’s spells odd, as they seem defensive and more in line with Solinari. I would’ve expected illusions to throw off the wielder’s position in combat, or a spell which transforms weapons which strike the shield.

Tomes of the Moon Gods: The three respective Tomes of Solinari/Lunitari/Nuitari all have the same benefits but whose abilities are keyed off of the reader’s alignment. Wizards of the appropriate alignment who read the tome gain a +1 permanent bonus to Intelligence and one experience level. Wizards of inappropriate alignments who read the tome lose experience points and must receive an Atonement spell to gain any further experience points from then on out. Noncasters are unaffected if they read the tomes, while divine casters of all kinds take 1 point of permanent Wisdom drain and suffer experience point loss (but no Atonement required). Once read by a wizard, the book vanishes from their sight.

The Dragon Orbs are Krynn’s equivalent to the Orbs of Dragonkind: they are capable of mentally controlling dragons as their most notable ability, and were created by the Orders to fight Takhisis’ chromatic dragons during the Third Dragon War. Each orb has the spirit of a chromatic dragon within, who will attempt to tempt and eventually possess the wielder. But users who can overcome the battle of wills can tap into the Orb’s power, which among other things can mentally summon dragons to the user’s location, mentally dominate them, and enact a mile-wide confusion-afflicting attack against all dragons and creatures with the Dragon type.* Finally the orbs can let the user scry into the past or future.

*In the Dragonlance Chronicles this feature of the Dragon Orb can be used during the Battle of the High Clerist’s Tower to more or less destroy the Dragonarmies’ draconian troops, while the dragon-summoning can be used to trick the blue dragons into entering inescapable hallway portcullis traps.

Encyclopedia of Magical Devices is not truly magical, but is an exhaustive list of every known magical artifact made during the Age of Starbirth and Dreams, aka virtually every artifact which exists in the setting. It also details proper rituals necessary to create non-artifact magical items which have since become “common” to the Orders. It is currently in possession by the Master of the Tower of Wayreth and guarded under innumerable abjuration spells and glyphs.

Gauntlets of Ventyr were created by the dwarves of Thorbadin to help fight against wizards. It automatically absorbs arcane spells cast within 10 feet of the wearer and stores them as charges, and an arcane spellcaster who wears said gauntlets can spend the charges to increase their caster level or reduce the effective level increase of metamagic feats. It’s also inhabited by a wizard ghost who can telepathically communicate with the wearer and has full stats to boot!

Mantooth is a longsword notable for being wielded by Caramon Majere, one of the Heroes of the Lance. It is a longsword with the Bane quality against arcane spellcasters, creatures with spell-like abilities, and magical beasts (+2d6 damage against them) which are a fair portion of published monsters. It can also parry spells back at the wielder via spending an attack of opportunity and making an attack roll against a DC of 10 + spell level + spellcaster’s relevant mental ability score modifier. It also can dispel a magical barrier with a percentage chance equal to the damage dealt. Overall this is a pretty great magical weapon with many uses!

Portal to the Abyss is a corrupted artifact, originally a teleportation gateway network made to allow for instantaneous travel between the five Towers. A failed experiment opened them into the Abyss instead, which would have allowed for Takhisis the opportunity to slip into the Material Plane were it not for some speedy work in sealing the portals by the wizards. The five portals were destroyed or went missing after the Cataclysm, but if one were to be found, it can only be opened by the efforts of a Black Robe Wizard and Cleric of a good-aligned deity (ostensibly the latter would be forced and unwilling). Both must participate in a ritual, the Cleric as the channel and the Wizard as the caster for the spell. Failing the ritual causings a mile-wide magical explosion and earthquake which destroys all living creatures in its radius. If successful, it opens up a two-way portal into the Abyss, and the wizard can control the opening and closing of all five Portals without the cleric’s aid provided he can find their respective location in the Abyss.

Interestingly, a portal much like this one played a prominent role in said goddess’ plans during the Dragonlance Chronicles. The goddess transported the Temple of Istar from the Blood Sea into the mountainous region of Neraka, and from here Emperor Ariakas and the Dragonarmies based their capital out of during the War of the Lance. However, it was different than the portals here on account of needing a Foundation Stone to function. The Abyss Portal which was initially in Istar’s Tower of High Sorcery was relocated during the Kingpriests’ purges far away from the capital city, so it cannot be that one either.

Thoughts So Far: I like the assortment of spells and magic items. Many of them provide useful features, although I have a bit of mixed feelings in regards to the “divine spellcasting copycat” ones. While they fit thematically in that I can totally see wizards experimenting with ways to mimic other traditions, their clear inferiority to their divine counterparts make them poor options for selection unless you’re playing during the era between the Cataclysm and War of the Lance when divine magic was stricken from the world.* The artifacts are pretty cool, although I felt that the moon god artifacts/tomes were a bit too samey and came off as attempts to expand the chapter’s word count.

*But then I’d ask why you’d be using D&D for this, as such a low magic setting can’t really be replicated well in the D20 System. I’ve heard good things about Spheres of Might allowing for low-magic campaigns, but I do not know if even that sourcebook can make up for the no-divine rule.

Join us next time as we cover more in-depth political workings of the Orders and their relationship with the gods in Chapter 3: Gods & the Orders!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 10:49 on Dec 27, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Brief Outline on the Adventure Path Timeline

Obligatory Valkyria Chronicles Music

I realize that this is a long time coming, but I've been juggling the holidays along with my Towers of High Sorcery review and compiling future 3rd Edition Changes for adventures PurpleXVI hasn't yet posted. So here I outline the preceding and succeeding years involving the War of the Lance, the principal conflict of the Dragonlance Chronicles.

Some things to outline: people earlier pointed out the seeming rapidity of the Dragonarmies taking over much of Ansalon. The continent of Ansalon is rather small, being approximately 1,000 miles north to south and 1,500 miles east to west. Even so, a lot of it is inhospitable terrain, with the central region full of mountains and the far south with arctic wasteland. The Blood Sea of Istar in the east can be circumnavigated but is more dangerous to sail upon unless you’re a hardcore minotaur.

In addition to flying dragons as aerial units, it must be mentioned that the Dragon Empire is effectively a high-magic nation in a low-magic world. They’ve existed for roughly 20 years building up their forces before the adventure’s onset, and have the only major source of clerical magic on Ansalon. The Wizards of High Sorcery have not really been involved in the war save for some notable exceptions, but the Dragonarmies get around this with Bozak draconians who have minor arcane spellcasting and can progress in ability. Aurak draconians are even more powerful, but they’re rare enough to the point that they’re only deployed in special operations. So the bad guys basically have all the benefits of D&D spellcasting while most national armies have Fighters and Rogues/Thieves at best. The Silvanesti and Qualinesti elves are the major exceptions in regards to arcane magic (both wizards and storehouses of magical items), and the Empire was particularly ruthless in crushing them for these reasons.


Dragonlance’s calendar is focused around the Cataclysm, with years designating BC (Before Cataclysm) and AC (After Cataclysm). The first adventure of the Chronicles, Dragons of Despair, takes place in the autumn of 351 AC.

141 AC, the Gods Return: Takhisis transports the Temple of Istar from its undersea ruin to central Ansalon, at the village of Neraka. The Temple’s Foundation Stone is part of a ritual to return her to Krynn as a flesh and blood goddess.

141-152 AC, the Rise of Dragons: The chromatic dragons, long in slumber much like their metallics, are reawakened by Takhisis.

157 AC, Plans Awry: The Foundation Stone is stolen by a nomadic human by the name of Berem. It becomes embedded in his chest, granting him immortality. As a result Takhisis is unable to enter the world of Krynn.

287 AC, Egg Theft: The metallics still asleep, the chromatics steal the good dragons’ eggs.

296 AC, Blackmail: Once the metallic dragons wake up, Takhisis blackmails them to stay out of the continent’s affairs and the oncomoning war. Unknowing of their eggs’ location, they reluctantly obey.

332-341 AC, Rise of Darkness: Duulket Ariakas, a former Black Robe Wizard and current warlord, made contact with Takhisis after finding a teleported temple of Istar in the mountains of central Ansalon. He starts to gather various mercenary groups together to take control of local tribes, and the aid of local chromatic dragons aiding the call.

342 AC, Draconians Created: With the aid of a Black Robe wizard, a priest of Takhisis, and a red dragon, the Dragonarmies discover a means of creating draconians from good dragon eggs to bolster their numbers.

342-349 AC, Occupation of Eastern Ansalon: The fledgling Dragon Empire’s forces move east into the ogre nations of Blode and Kern as well as the human tribes of Khur and the Blood Sea Isles. A half-ogre by the name of Lucien Takar becomes the Black Dragon Highlord and unites the ogres under service, but the Khur tribes that refuse to bow to the Dark Queen start up a local insurgency. Said insurgency is still ongoing but losing ground, and by 349 AC all of the human kingdoms of eastern Ansalson swear fealty to the Dragonarmies.

348 AC, the Nordmaarian Campaign: The Red and Green Dragonarmies invade Nordmaar, the kingdom adjacent to Solamnia. They fall with token resistance in under two weeks.

348-350 AC, the Silvanesti Campaign: The Silvanesti elves, being isolationists, don’t really care about the affairs of other races beyond their borders. The Dragon Empire signed a nonaggression pact with King Lorac, but the elven lord knows that it’s only a matter of time before their soldiers breach the forests. And that the Green Dragonarmy did. This war quickly became the Dragon Empire’s Vietnam, although much shorter-lived: you see, the elves have arcane magic, civilians are trained in the use of bows and swords and the forest canopies are quite ideal for concealment from aerial forces.

Both sides suffered heavy losses, but in time the Dragonarmy was about to claim the capital. King Lorac used a dragon orb to defend the city, but sadly the Orb took control of him instead, plunging the forest kingdom into a living nightmare which slaughtered elf and Dragonarmy soldiers alike. The threat of Silvanesti was ended, but it came at a cost.

350 AC, Recouping Losses: Emperor Ariakas spent most of the year attending to domestic affairs. Local uprisings were growing in number as a result of said losses, and the Dragonarmy leadership saw rapid changes in turnover from reassignment, demotions, and executions as inevitable blame was sought for the losses in Silvanesti. Verminaard became the Red Dragonarmy leader, while creating of specialized units for the White, Black and Green Dragonarmies were underway for unorthodox forms of warfare. Money was spent on maintaining infrastructure, particularly in siphoning funds from occupied territories to make up for losses elsewhere. The White Dragonarmy was relocated to the Icewall and Sea of Dust for more suitable territory for their dragons. And invasions for Solamnia were planned due to said nation being the breadbasket of Ansalson.

351 AC, War with Solamnia: Solamnia is one of Ansalon’s largest countries and home to the most fertile farmland. Ariakas assigned the two greatest Dragonarmies, the Blue and Red, to take control of the knights’ eastern provinces. Nearby kingdoms of Throt and Lemish who were no allies of Solamnia threw their lot in with the Dragonarmies. The Red Dragonarmy conquered much of southenr Solamnia, which they used as a stating ground to send squads into Abanasinia due to rumors of the return of the true gods and their artifacts. Instead of out and out troops they used disguised draconians (and some goblins) for reconnaissance and diplomacy.

351 AC, Dragons of Autumn Twilight: The events of Dragons of Autumn Twilight. PCs find knowledge of the true gods in Abanasinian ruins. Abanasinian towns and the elven nation of Qualinesti are invaded and razed, the Dragonarmies having learned from their mistakes in Silvanesti to perform differently. The Red Dragonarmy brokers a deal with the dark dwarf clans of Thorbadin to provoke a civil war, but are ultimately unsuccessful. The Red Dragon Highlord, Verminaard, is killed in the uprisings. Thorbadin remains a free nation and safe haven for Abanasinian refugees.

352 AC, Dragons of Winter Night: representatives from Mount Nevermind, Hylo, Ergoth, Solamnia, and various unconquered territories convene to find the best way to fight the Dragonarmies. The city of Tarsis, is razed by the Blue Dragonarmy and occupied. The PCs find the Dragon Orb in Icewall Castle, the White Dragon Highlord, Feal-Thas, is killed. The secrets of making the Dragonlances are rediscovered in Ergoth. The High Clerist’s Tower is defended as the last major bastion of Solamnic resistance against the Blue Dragonarmy.

352 AC, Concurrent, Dragons of Spring Dawning: The Heroes of Spring visit some undersea ruins, find Berem, and learn about his role in Takhisis’ plans to come back into the world. They also visit the sacred site of Godshome and get divine insights.

The Heroes of Spring and Winter reunite to assault the Temple of Istar in Neraka where Emperor Ariakas plans to open up the portal and let the Dark Queen into the world.

353 AC, End of the War of the Lance: Takhisis is defeated based on one of six possible ending resolutions. The Whitestone forces push back the Dragonarmies which are now fractious and disunited with the fall of Ariakas and the remaining Dragon Highlords. Only the Blue Dragonarmy ends up with any appreciable territory for years to come.

355 AC, Rebuilding: Gunthar Uth Wistan becomes the new Grand Master of the Knights of Solamnia and reforms the Measure to be updated for modern times. The Qualinesti and Silvanesti resettle in their homelands and rebuild, but the latter group has a long task in cleansing their forest of Lorac’s Nightmare.

Overall, the timeline is a bit fast. The Silvanesti Campaign's 2 years is rather quick for a grinding war of attrition when you look at historical wars, although the rest of the Dragon Empire's conquests are more gradual.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 09:02 on Dec 27, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

FoldableHuman posted:

This is weird-rear end logic. You could just as well say "these are Good-only because they're defensive, and White Robe Wizards are the most likely to be ganked by Black Robes."

There's no real reason why the Bracelets of Magic Resistance should be tailored to any moral outlook or faction. Or what's particularly EVIL about defending yourself from magical attacks. I presume it's because the ability to auto-fail even 9th level spells was deemed too powerful to be in PCs' hands and thus did the whole "evil magic item" thing.

Seatox posted:

Why would a wizard want to replicate druid Wild Shape with a junk spell when they have two flavors of Polymorph (which exact flavors changes a lot between 3 and 3.5 ed) on their spell list? How is Life Transfer any different from Vampiric Touch?

Why not just use Wish in one of it's approved forms (it's on the list of things a Wish can do in 3rd edition) to Resurrect someone? It's only 5k experience, and if you're desperate enough that you need the party wizard to raise someone, it's probably because the dead person's the party cleric, and 5k experience is probably worth it at the levels where you can even use 9th level spells.

And anyway, the best way for a wizard to replicate divine spells is to simply Planar Binding something that can do it for them.

Oh, Dragonlance.

I realize I was forgot to read another function of the spell. The temporary HP gained from Life Transfer must be transferred into another touched creature one round later, healing real damage up to the temporary hit point total. If you are unable to transfer this energy outwards, you heal only half the HP in yourself of temporary HP.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 10:51 on Dec 27, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

LatwPIAT posted:

The X-Risks supplement has a sidebar where it suggests that capitalism is an existential risk. Like yeah Posthuman Studios are nerds but they're Seattle anarchist nerds and they wear that on their sleeves.


Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Chapter Three: Gods & the Orders

This chapter’s a bit poorly titled; it implies that it covers the relationship between the deities of Dragonlance and the Orders. While this part is true, it’s more like The Gods, and also the Orders in terms of subject matter in that we cover subjects of a secular nature as well: the history of arcane magic in Ansalon and Conclave politics.

The Gods of Magic & Role of the Other Gods in Magic

I’m combining these two sections into one due to related material. We first cover the three gods of magic. Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari are also the same names for the three moons in the sky and have an intrinsic connection, although more in a sense of “Apollo is the god of the sun” rather than “Apollo is the sun.” They have less of a hostile status between each other than the traditional good/neutral/evil divide of their divine peers; more of a rivalry than a blood feud. Individual members of the Orders do come into conflict, but the Orders and their patrons’ uniting cause is the promotion and regulation of magic. When primal sorcery ran wild in the Age of Dreams, the Orders figured that pooling their resources for these overarching goals but otherwise remaining autonomous was an ideal compromise. But the return of primal sorcery in the Age of Mortals is straining the Orders’ once-strong bonds on how to handle the increasing number of spontaneous magic users.

Solinari’s Ideology promotes the use of magic for the public good along with caring for those unable to help themselves. During the rise of the Kingpriest it appears that anti-arcane sentiment was not limited to just Istar’s government, for Solinari was trying to convince the other Gods of Good that they should not fear those who practiced it and was one of the few among their number to view the rise of the Kingpriest as a bad thing.

Wait, hold on a second here. The Kingpriest’s anti-magic purges were something the good-aligned deities agreed with, and not one of the reasons for why they brought about the Cataclysm?! Was their breaking point the anti-kender laws or the mind-reading secret police or something?

In spite of his “magic for all” ideology, Solinari’s limits are reached when it comes to primal sorcery, viewing magic which cannot be regulated by the Orders as a force that can destroy the world. But he views Nuitari’s advocation of Sorcerer genocide as going too far. As a result, the White Robes heavily encourage sorcerers to join the Orders as equals. Supposedly that is; Solinari is getting along with his evil brother due to a shared distrust of sorcerers.

Lunitari’s Ideology is more -freespirited than her two brothers and views all forms of rules and regulations with suspicion, which makes me wonder why she agreed to the creation of the Orders in the first place. She and the Red Robes view magic as a means of self-empowerment, and that its study should be encouraged in all its forms as a means of furthering this. She and the Red Robes are also the most tolerant of sorcerers, and Lunitari has been known on a few rare occasions to manifest in front of a primal magic user just to ask them questions and develop research rather than for the purposes of conversion. She takes a hands-off approach and even encourages sorcerers and wizards to cooperate, but if primal magic users ever made their own equivalent Orders then she is in agreement with Nuitari that they should be crushed.

So much for the Tolerant Middle.

Nuitari’s Ideology encourages magic as self-empowerment like Lunitari, but also to use that power to dominate others. They obey the bureaucracy of the Orders and Conclave in a “strength in numbers” way given the many centuries of anti-magic sentiment which threatens them all. Nuitari is on particularly poor terms with the divine evil gods on account that Takhisis has a track record of stealing magical power for herself; both in the creation of her own order of the Gray Robes and with the theft of the world during the Chaos War. But he’s encouraged the spread of arcane magic among the minotaur race in spite of their cultural distrust, viewing them as the next rising superpower on Krynn.

Nuitari has found new reasons to bond with his good-aligned sibling due to sharing a distrust of primal sorcery; like Solinari he believes that they may destroy the world if left unchecked, but he encourages his Black Robes to murder sorcerers where they can rather than attempt to recruit them. Lunitari just looks at her brothers and goes “you both are crazy.”

So how do the Other Gods view and approach arcane magic? Well they mostly take a hands-off approach, using their own divine magic to control and regulate their followers. This was different during the rise of Istar during the Age of Might, where the good-aligned gods minus Solinari gave the Kingpriest their blessings to limit the power and influence of the Orders due to a belief in the “absolute power corrupts absolutely” when it came to arcane magic. Even up to and including state-sanctioned violence.

The gods of magic were quite rightfully pissed off at the Gods of Light for being hypocritical bastards, but their protests fell on deaf ears. The Black Robes and a sizeable amount of Red Robes suggested an eye for an eye to show the Kingpriest that they’re not to be trifled with, although the White Robes realized that they will not win against Istar long-term and sought a possible compromise/ceasefire. A ceasefire which in the next chapter we find out was sabotaged by a Black Robe assassination attempt (see Istar: the Bloody-Fingered Hand entry).

Eventually the rest of the pantheon realized that granting legitimacy to the Kingpriest’s government was a terrible idea, and eventually set in the biblical signs which led to the Cataclysm. The gods withdrew from the world afterwards, save the three Gods of Magic who really had nothing to atone for when it came to Istar’s rise. After the rest of the pantheon returned to the world during the War of the Lance they adopted a more respectful yet arm’s-length attitude towards the Orders, not eager to repeat the mistakes of the past.

There’s no mention of how the Neutral pantheon felt about Istar’s policies. The evil gods were no doubt opposed, although in the sense that they were the ones whose worshipers were suffering the most at the Kingpriest’s hands.

Takhisis is the major exception to the arcane-divine divide. Nuitari being her son, she initially thought he’d be loyal to her upon his birth and resented the fact that he kept the powers of the Black Robes under his exclusive thumb all these millennia. She decided that she would create her own order of wizards shortly before the Fifth Age. Takhisis’ Gray Robes were a new subsection of her new knightly order, using a cosmic magical loophole to grant them arcane magic directly while also subtly recruiting from the Black Robes. The Gods of Magic, Nuitari in particular, were angry at the usurpation of their power, but their demands for punishing Takhisis were put on hold when Chaos broke out of the Graygem and all hell broke loose. She took the world and hid it from the other gods in the confusion, and for a time was Krynn’s only true deity. But a lot of stuff happened in the War of Souls novels: she died, Paladine became mortal, and now the Gray Robes and the Knights of Takhisis (now the Knights of Neraka) are a godless, secular order yet still potent in the magical arts.

So long story short, the Gods of Good and the Gods of Magic are power-hungry hypocrites who talk a big game about ideals but throw that all out when a possible threat to their status quo arises.

History of High Sorcery

Age of Starbirth: The mortal races did not exist yet, and the gods were fashioning the very fabric of the void into reality. The sparks from Reorx’s forge created the stars which contained spirits. The gods warred over these potential new spirits and what to do with them, and as a compromise the spirits were fashioned into mortal bodies (good gods) with free will (neutral) but would sicken, age, and die (evil so that they can be tempted). The three moons were placed into the heavens so that the Gods of Magic would look down upon the world. The Graygem held a bit of Chaos, the primordial entity which existed before time and space had meaning, and was secreted away within Lunitari’s moon in an attempt to calm the raging entity.

Age of Dreams: the only known magic was divine magic, and the elves and ogres received many blessings. The humans, children of the neutral gods, were exploited by the others because the neutral gods withheld their magic for unknown reasons. The gnomes built a spaceship to Lunitari and ended up taking the Graygem down to Krynn to harness as a power source but ended up breaking it. The primordial energy spawned and twisted life all over Krynn, giving birth to new races as well as primal sorcery which until now only dragons could manipulate. The gnomes tried to hunt down the now-mobile Graygem which wreaked havoc all over the place, but the few hunters were warped into the first non-dragon primal magic users and became the Scions. Spontaneous displays of sorcery began to spring up among the other races.

The elves got tired of humans and ogres and colonized a forest filled with dragons. Neither side was eager to live alongside each other and they ended up in a war. The three Gods of Magic shown dreams to the elves of how to create five magic runestones* to end the First Dragon War, absorbing the dragons’ spirits into the stones and burying them deep within the mountains.

*If you think these sound like the Dragon Orbs, they’re not. These won’t be invented until the Third Dragon War.

The dwarves dug too deep and rediscovered the runes, letting out the spirits which returned to the dragons’ bodies. The dragons declared war against the elves again with the aid of ogres and lizardfolk, with both sides making use of sorcery in the Second Dragon War. The all-out arcane warfare rent such massive devastation to the land that the Gods of Magic gathered up the three greatest sorcerers in a citadel and cast them into the Beyond. Vowing to never let such a catastrophe happen again, the Gods of Magic worked with the sorcerers in the citadel in finding ways of reshaping Primal Sorcery into safer conduits. And here the seeds of the Orders of High Sorcery were planted, philosophical ideals and scholarly workings penned down for future generations known as the Foundations of Magic. They spread their findings among trusted members of the mortal races and constructed the Towers of High Sorcery, working together to learn and control arcane magic.

The Third Dragon War came when Takhisis decided to lead the chromatic dragon clans in conquering Ansalon. This was an age of myths and legends, when a brash upstart Red Robe named Magius and a promising young knight named Huma went on an epic fantasy RPG journey to defeat Takhisis with the aid of the newly-forged Dragonlances. The Orders were not slacking off during this time, and the entire Conclave participated in a ritual to create the Dragon Orbs based off of elven magic blueprints. Each Tower thus had its own orb to safeguard after the war ended.

Age of Might: Takhisis was slain by Huma and Krynn was at peace. The empires of the elves, Solamnia, and Ergoth were fading in comparison to the rise of Istar, which would soon grow to be the American Evangelical Christian version of Lawful Good: preaching a lot about holiness but acting like hypocritical Lawful Evil jerks. The Kingpriests were so obsessed with wiping evil from the world that they enforced more and more oppressive laws: making even neutral-aligned faiths illegal, enslaving and genociding entire races which had “fallen from the Light,” declaring kender inherently evil and offering bounties for their deaths and capture, and the belief that the Orders’ vaunted self-regulation wasn’t enough when arcane magic could be potentially learned by anybody without the aid of a god.

With the blessings of the Gods of Light and the unknown sabotaging of the Towers’ various groves, Istar’s armies besieged the Towers. During this time wizards were hunted down and murdered all over the Empire. The Orders’ headquarters were forced back to the Tower of Wayreth at the southwest end of the continent, the only Tower which remained standing. It turned out that a crafty Black Robe archwizard named Fistandantilus revealed to the Kingpriest that he helped sabotage the Tower groves so that he’d be the greatest remaining mage on Krynn, and that he should be appointed as a governmental advisor due to the great boon he granted to the unwitting Kingpriest. Despite being very, very obviously Evil, the Kingpriest agreed…but only because he wanted to keep and eye on him and not because this is an obvious political power grab! The Kingpriest is still Lawful Good, guys, Paladine still granted him spellcasting ability up to the time when-

gently caress it, there’s really no justification for this. The Gods of Light are hypocritical bastards.

The Age of Despair: Eventually the Gods of Light came to see reason when the Kingpriest started appointing secret police with mind-reading magic items to arrest people who were so much as thinking naughty thoughts. But even after rapturing up the few genuine Clerics left, Istar’s populace was still loyal to the Kingpriest. So arrogant was he that he eventually tried to command and enslave the gods themselves because he thought that he could do a better job at fighting evil than they can. The gods sent their answer with a giant meteor smack-dab in Istar’s capital, which would affect the rest of Krynn irreversibly.

Everything sucked during this age. The majority of the populace (quite rightly) were angered at the untold suffering and genocide that the gods brought about during Istar’s reign, and also the giant frickin’ meteor which plunged most of the eastern continent underwater and the ensuing geo-political struggles which followed. The loss of divine magic hurt even more when injuries and plagues grew out of control.

The wizards saw things differently. Many were also resentful, but the three moons still hung above, still channeling arcane magic to Order members with the movement of celestial bodies. The gods they served never left them unlike the rest of the pantheon. Things still weren’t easy; many people still hated and feared wizards due to Istaran cultural holdovers, and being the sole spellcasters left on Krynn made people even more fearful of their power. The loss of four Towers severely impacted their ability to find prospective mages, set up academies, hunt renegades, and conduct research. The rise of the Dragon Empire in eastern Ansalon spooked the Red and White Orders, and the Black Robes entered into a secret alliance with the Dragonarmies and much of their number departed from the Tower of Wayreth. The leader of the White Robes sought to create a living magical superweapon by finding a candidate whose power would be refined via a magical forging of the soul.

That superweapon’s name?

Raistlin Majere.

Age of Mortals: This is the Age at which most Dragonlance fans declared the setting RUINED FOREVER. The Graygem broke open, unleashing Chaos into the world. All of the gods banded together to unite their mortal forces against this threat to all reality, and the Knights of Takhisis were formed as the evil counterpart to the Solamnic Knights. Takhisis formed the Order of Gray Robes as part of this knighthood, who quickly took over much of the continent during and after the Chaos War. While the rest of the gods were recuperating, Takhisis stole the world. By cutting off Krynn from the moons and the rest of the gods, this made her the sole deity who can grant both arcane and divine spells...of a prepared nature. Sorcerers were the only group that remained unbound to her dominion. During this time countless wizards resorted to draining magic items of their power to “recharge” their daily spells without the conduit of the moons, and some tried to become primal sorcerers to varying degrees of success. Palin Majere would go on to found a formal order for primal sorcerers. The Wizards of High Sorcery fell into such desperate measures that the Conclave “permanently” disbanded as an organizational body.

Things would get back to relative normalcy after Weis and Hickman released the War of Souls book series and the surviving members of the Heroes of the Lance went on an adventure which brought the gods back through time travel and other shenanigans. Takhisis ended up getting killed by Paladine for causing this whole mess in the first place; but Paladine made himself mortal to “preserve the balance.” The three Gods of Magic reformed the Orders and Conclave, but have a lot of work to do in regaining what they lost. Mistress Jenna of Palanthas, the head of the Red Robes, also became Master of the reformed Conclave and Master of the Tower of Wayreth in a clear violation of the checks and balances vital to reasonable limits on governmental power. But everyone seems fine with that for now. Given Solinari and Nuitari’s fledgling anti-sorcerer bromance and how mean and petty the non-neutral alignments are in Dragonlance, this may be the least of all evils.

Oh, if you’re wondering whether or not the Wizards destroyed the primal sorcery academy, it was already destroyed earlier by Beryllinthranox, one of the five alien mega-dragons whose plane of existence ended up adjacent to Krynn when Takhisis stole the world.

The Fifth Age was weird, man.

Structure & Rules of the Conclave

The Towers were regional affairs, and the Orders were divided by philosophy, but some universal body had to unite them all. The Conclave, a council of 21 divided by 7 mages of each Order, make decisions by majority vote on issues which can affect all member wizards across Ansalon. Their votes determine the selection of the Masters of the Towers, and the Master of each of the three Orders is drawn from someone serving on the Conclave. Unlike the Masters of the Tower, the Masters of the Orders can still sit on the Conclave and the three can cast tie-breaking votes and make decisions on behalf of their fellow Order Conclave members voting-wise when others cannot attend. And of those three Order Masters, one can become the Head of the Conclave who acts as a final arbiter and whose position is held for life barring gross incompetence, defying the result of a Conclave vote, or other reasons that demand the Head’s immediate removal. It’s not mentioned if there are term limits or how long a Conclave seat is held for non-Heads in this case.

Each Order has its own means of determining from among the Conclave seats who should be their Master. The White Robes are naive in the ways of politics and trust that their number will make the right decision when all options and points of view are presented in an open and honest manner. The Red Robes, much like their patron, aren’t exactly fond of bureaucratic red tape and determine their Master by drawing lots from among the seven Conclave members. The Black Robes hold secret competitions among their own which are usually dangerous wizard duels.

Not gonna lie, I kind of like how none of the Orders’ methods guard against magical or political corruption, and only the White Robes’ system has any means of selecting someone with a skill set based on good governing skills. Reminds me of the engineers and woo phenomenon.

Conclave meetings are commonly held at dates when at least one of three moons is in High Sanction, although emergency meetings can be convened in times of crisis. And meetings range on all manner of topics that can conceivably affect the Wizards of High Sorcery or arcane magic in general: assignment of funds to research projects, how to best combat threats to the Orders, and so on. The Conclave also has a Council of Three which are tasked with running the day-to-day activities of individual towers. Wouldn’t this be the job of a Master of a Tower?

Beyond this, we have a section on what happens to people who break the laws of High Sorcery and common punishments. Every wizard who passes their Test is instructed on the details of said laws, but mentors of apprentices are expected to integrate these rules into their lessons over time. The Conclave has created many regulations and is responsible for voting on the severity of punishment, but a few most pertinent to PC wizards are listed along with general levels of severity:

1. Using magic for common entertainment purposes is frowned upon because it gives the impression that magic is a silly, frivolous thing among the general public rather than something to fear and respect.
2. Using magic to to duplicate, create, or destroy fiat currency is banned, for it can exacerbate economic problems and gives governments a good excuse to punish, oppress, and regulate wizards.
3. Leaking confidential plans of the Orders to organizations outside High Sorcery is treated as treason/spying and punished just as harshly.
4. Wizards must abide by the rulings of the Conclave and senior Order members, even if they voted against a Conclave measure.
5. Activities of renegade mages must be reported to an appropriate authority figure within the Orders.
6. The Towers are neutral ground for all Order members. Acts of theft, violence, and similar acts on Tower grounds is punishable by varying degrees of severity.
7. Altering the foundational blocks of magic and creation is expressly forbidden unless permission is granted by the Conclave to do so.

Misdemeanors and first-time offenders with a good track record are given a warning. More serious offenses or repeat ones will be met with a higher-ranking member of the Order, who threatens that their organization will punish them if they do not stop or make amends. Said mage is then secretly monitored by Order members to the best of their ability. More serious incidents and/or rule-breaking caught by said surveillance have more serious punishments which tend to differ by Order:

White Robes either imprison offenders in a building designed to hold dangerous spellcasters or exiles them from the Order. In the latter case the wizard must either join the Red or Black robes or end up a renegade.

Red Robes do the same thing, but in some rare cases before exile ask the prisoner if they wish to consent to enchantment magic. This will alter their mental state so as to make them incapable of repeating the criminal activities. This violation of free will is so abhorrent to so many Red Robes that this is rarely used. But I’d like to mention that they’re the only Order which does this “mental behavioral therapy,” so this free will ideal kind of falls flat on its face.

Black Robes rarely police their own unless a Conclave vote forces their hand. In such a case they apprehend said member and subject them to torture as a deterrence method against causing the Order such an inconvenience.

Serious repeat offenders are apprehended and brought before the Conclave itself, while mages whose crimes involve some harm directed to a Conclave member or to magical development on a large scale never even get a trial: they end up mysteriously disappearing and are never heard from again.

Stat Blocks and Templates

Scattered throughout this chapter are stat blocks for notable mages throughout Ansalon’s history. We have Fistandantilus, who is an epic-level Black Robe wizard who specializes in necromancy magic; Magius is a 14th-level Red Robe wizard at the height of his power and heavily focuses on evocation and transmutation spells; Mistress Jenna of Palanthas is a 17th-level Red Robe wizard with levels in Spell Broker and has just about every item creation feat of note.

Finally we have the Master of the Tower template, which grants several powerful abilities as long as they remain within the Tower grounds: the ability to prepare spells from 3 cleric domains thematic to the Tower as arcane spells, automatically learning Time Reaver and the spell which grants safe passage through the Tower’s outer defenses, bonuses on Spellcraft checks and research time for putting new spells into their spellbook, and Spell Resistance of 10 + half their total levels in arcane magic classes (rounded down).

Thoughts So Far: I admit that I’m not entirely fond of this chapter. The explanation on Conclave politics is very in-depth but I cannot see it mattering in most epic high fantasy stories that Dragonlance encourages. I can see it as an offbeat adventure where the PCs have to grease the dysfunctional wheels of mage politics to unite the wizards against some greater threat, or get a sentence cleared for their wizard ally on trial. The Gods of Goods’ sanctioning of the Kingpriest’s purges was not something other sourcebooks talked about, so I do not know how canon is this part. But it really makes Paladine and company look bad, which even with the Cataclysm is saying something.

The Gods of Magic’s anti-sorcerer bias is understandable given the devastation of the First Dragon War, but treating all of them as walking time bombs who need to be exterminated or kept under heel is likely to exacerbate a potential war. Solinari and Nuitari finding common ground while their neutral sister shakes their heads shows how self-serving the gods can be.

On the one hand, I don’t think that having hypocritical deities and organizations falling short of their ideals is a bad thing in fictional worlds. There’s a bit of dramatic irony in the wizards oppressing sorcerers using the very same talking points the Kingpriests used against the Orders, which sadly has historical precedent in our own world. However, Dragonlance’s black and white cosmic morality (and by extension the rest of D&D) with clear lines drawn in the battle between good and evil runs up hard against this and leaves me shaking my head.

I felt that the history of magic veered too hard at times into unrelated material which sought to set up the backdrop of various Ages, but the core and setting books for the respective eras already cover these parts. I do like how the Conclave and the Orders have differing and sometimes arbitrary methods of resolution for various things; flaws in the system make for good role-play and believable conflict, and shows that just because people are smart in a nerdy area doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be rational, reasonable, or skilled at governance.

Join us next time in Chapter Four as we get detailed write-ups on the five Towers of High Sorcery and other notable magical fortresses and academies of Ansalon!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
Kind of a double post, but...

I remember back near the beginning of PurpleXVI's Dragonlance review, either he or someone else compared the White Robes and Black Robes being on amicable terms as equivalent to Ellen DeGeneres sitting next to George W Bush at a baseball game.

Well with this latest chapter, this is all but confirmed in regards to the Sorcerer Question.

Edit: Found it.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 10:23 on Dec 28, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

LatwPIAT posted:

I didn't say it was wrong.

I think it was eyeroll-wrothy, but that mostly has to do with being really tired of yet another anarchist polemic interrupting my roleplaying game about shooting robots in space.

Eclipse Phase is nothing if not edgy progressive cyberpunk IN SPAAAAAAAAACE

U.T. Raptor posted:

iirc, what happened was that Paladine did some kind of ritual or something to strip Takhisis of her godhood, at the cost of losing his own as well (because something something balance). Then she got killed by a different character, who was then immediately killed by Mina because Mina is the loving worst.

So who's the bigger Mary Sue? Mina or Raistlin?

Also, nearly done with my Towers of High Sorcery review, at least in terms of rough drafts. I already decided that I'm going to review War of the Lance next. HOWEVER...

Unless I or the forums burn out hard on Dragonlance, I'm thinking of reading one more book after that for a post-WotL review. Given how relatively quick Towers is going, I figure that I can read up on some of the lesser-known sourcebooks of a similar length and be all ready when WotL is finished.

My options are:

Races of Ansalon: gives new fluff and crunch on pretty much all the major races (including goblins and ogres) save Draconians, who are detailed in Dragons of Krynn instead.

Knightly Orders of Ansalon: what it says on the tin, with emphasis on the Knights of Solamnia, Neraka, and Legion of Steel. Also has web enhancements covering more minor orders like Ergothian Cavaliers and Elven Windriders which I'll make part of the review.

Holy Orders of the Stars: focuses on the gods and their churches, along with a boatload of new Prestige Classes.

Dragons of Krynn: talks about the societies of the major dragon clans of Krynn, along with cousins such as the Amphi and Shadow Dragons, and also Draconians and their new nation of Teyr.

I have plans to re-review the Key of Destiny adventure path, but the old threads that host it give me a malware warning (from apparently, a now-defunct site) so out of respect to peoples' computers I'd start it anew rather than continue from where I left off. It's a major undertaking of 3 sourcebooks nearing 800 pages total, so it'd likely be a later review if at all.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 01:36 on Dec 29, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

NGDBSS posted:

minmax went under? What happened? Did they get hacked again, or just disappear due to waning interest in 3E?

They eventually migrated to a new place, Min-Max Forum when it came under new ownership. Then that place became mostly abandoned save for some PbPs and got up a Discord server instead.

It's been a while since I've been part of that community, but my Key of Destiny review was made way back in 2013, so chances are that links back to the original URL may be triggering malware or something.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Chapter Four: the Towers

This chapter’s a bit of a peculiar one. It has detailed write-ups on the five major Towers of High Sorcery, and some minor write-ups of other notable locations of great import to wizards. Why this is peculiar is that three of the Towers have been long since destroyed, and their descriptions focus on the time periods when they still would’ve been at their peak before the Kingpriest’s purges. The two “surviving” towers, Wayreth and Palanthas, have write-ups for them during the current Age of Mortals although Palanthas is more of a dungeon now than a proper magic school. As such, DMs who are sticklers for lore will find this chapter of limited use barring time travel or games set during the Age of Might or Dreams (both which have the least material written for them in Dragonlance sourcebooks). The minor write-ups, however, have their details described for the current Age.

The oldest surviving Tower, Wayreth, is nestled deep within the forests of Qualinesti on autonomous territory, its teleporting properties and magical defenses making it impossible to locate unless its Master gives permission to those looking for it. The Tower has a near-religious level of respect among wizards of all Orders, and after the Kingpriest’s purges has been their closest thing to a safe community where they can live in peace. It is also where the Conclave holds assembly and where all prospective Order initiates must take the Test.

History: Its history is almost as old as that of wizardry itself. It was built first as a fortress-village by the three founders of High Sorcery, although its location proved a poor choice when neighboring goblinoid and human tribes attacked it repeatedly, which caused the wizards to devise Wayreth’s defenses. Their latest plan worked when the next barbarian army fell as their very weapons turned into snakes which attacked them.

Secure in their power, Wayreth served as a “wizard capital” for High Sorcery’s expansion, and maintained a primacy even as the other Towers were built after the influx of prospective mages began to test Wayreth’s limits. During the Age of Might and the Kingpriest’s purges, Wayreth managed to survive due to its remote proximity from Istar as well as the fact that the Kingpriest chose to spare it for unknown reasons.*

*In the Kingpriest Ascendant alternate timeline in Legends of the Twins sourcebook, one possibility was that the Kingpriests’ advisors told him that the destruction of all five Towers would unleash a magical cataclysm upon Krynn the likes of which have never been seen before.

During the Age of Despair, the death rate of mages was so high due to continent-wide violence and instability that they numbered 1/10th of their population in pre-Cataclysm times at the dawn of the 5th Age. It was the lowest point for Wayreth until the War of Souls, and the Tower became less of a school and more of a refuge and safe haven which housed almost all arcane spellcasters on the continent. Resources for developing new schools/towers/spells/etc were instead dedicated to preserving what they had left. Things were so bad that the Orders sent out a few trusted teachers to start schooling people regardless of their funds or education level in magic in remote and rural regions unconnected to major nations. The intent was to provide for a survival plan for High Sorcery in case even Wayreth fell. Ironically the Fourth Age was when the greatest number of poor, rural people became wizards due to this program. A White Robe became Head of the Conclave and helped teach Raistlin so that he may eventually fight the Dragonarmies. In fact, it was Raistlin’s role in the War of the Lance that improved public view of wizards after the war ended.

During the Fifth Age, the Orders’ numbers dropped to barely a handful when Takhisis stole the world for herself. Palin Majere and a mysterious figure known as the Shadow Sorcerer offered to teach the now-powerless wizards primal sorcery, which was a huge political issue among the wizards. Still, Wayreth’s latent magic remained, and Wayreth’s walls still stand strong. But even though the rest of the gods returned eventually, the Orders have never been less numerous or weaker.

Description: Wayreth is actually a cluster of gleaming black glass towers with walls impervious to all forms of damage. Three towers along the walls are temples to the moon gods who reflect their patrons’ moonlight when they’re full in the night sky. Most wizards travel here by magic so its front gates do not see much use. The towers have all the requirements for both a school and a community: apartments for living space, libraries, laboratories, gardens for crops and herbal supplies, and dungeons for holding dangerous monsters and people. The Conclave has its own tower, the Hall of Mages, which functions as part Wizard Congress/part courthouse, as well as the Testing Levels whose foundations appear different to every initiate who enters them.

The surrounding Forest of Wayreth is such that it casts a magical veil over a wide area, making it impossible for people to find it unless the Master of the Tower casts the Touch of Guiding Light spell upon the recipient. The forest looks spooky and weird, full of dead trees and a noxious freezing mist, but appears beautiful and alive for those whose presence is permitted. We have some descriptions of places like the libraries, the Testing Grounds, and the Hall of Mages but there’s nothing really noteworthy or special unless you like reading about what persistent 20th Caster Level spells are permeating the area.

The current Master of the Tower of Wayreth is a mysterious figure who has taken many forms, and nobody knows his or her true identity. But we do have a stat block, and the person is a bonafide 20th-level Eldritch Emissary, a new monster in Chapter 6. It’s rather funny, most of the high-ranking figures of High Sorcery in 3rd Edition Dragonlance sourcebooks are stupidly, campaign-endingly powerful. They can take all of the Dragon Highlords* out to lunch, and the few statted characters I’ve seen who may be able to challenge them are Emperor Ariakas (the final boss of the original Dragonlance campaign), god-tier Raistlin from Legends of the Twins (28th level), and the alien Dragon Overlords from the Age of Mortals (who are even more stupidly powerful with 30+ CRs and their own Colossal+ size category).

*the five military leaders of the Dragonarmies from the original Dragonlance campaign

Palanthas is, rather it was, the only Tower that could give Wayreth some serious competition in arcane power. Its libraries dwarfed even that first Tower’s grandness, and it was the place where some of the most powerful artifacts were created and stored. But the Kingpriest’s purges forced the Tower’s defenders into placing a curse of desperation on the area.

History: The Tower was built in what was originally an Ergothian fishing village in Ansalon’s far north. When the other Towers were planned on being built, three of them were intended to be strongholds for the respective orders: Daltigoth the Reds, Istar the Whites, and Losarcum the Blacks. What would become known as the Tower of Palanthas was dubbed Tsandol Sirran, the Lore-Spire, to be the wizard’s greatest storehouse of knowledge.

Just like Wayreth’s foundations the non-magical neighbors were not happy to have wizards living in their vicinity, and some local merchants performed a Red Wedding with poison to kill the Tower’s chief builder. But he didn’t die, and through sheer willpower pulled himself from his deathbed and channeled Lunitari’s power inside him to raise the entire Tower by magic in one night before finally dying. The rest of the wizards hunted down and killed those who slain their brethren in vengeance, and planted oak trees around the tower to generate an aura of magical fear to intruders.

Over time the surrounding environs would grow into the great City of Palanthas. The local wizards proved instrumental in fighting Takhisis’ forces during the Third Dragon War, notably using the Dragon Orbs and the construction of the High Clerist’s Tower to trap and kill the invading dragons. The nation of Solamnia respected the wizards for this, and all was well until the Kingpriest’s purges caused even Solamnia to acquiesce to letting their forces through their territory. The wizards did not go down without a fight, and in desperation the Master of the Tower enacted a curse and committed suicide by leaping from its highest window. A foul magic spread around the Tower and the land, raw evil exuding the ground and air.

During the Age of Despair Raistlin would find a means of claiming the Tower for himself, using it as a base of operations for researching a way to kill Takhisis and claim godhood for himself. It was the only place on Krynn the mage could pursue his studies in secret away from the prying eyes of the Conclave. After the events of Dragons of Summer Flame and Raistlin sacrificing himself to save the world from Takhisis once again, his apprentice Dalamar became Master of the Tower as well as the Master of the Black Robes. He found a way to lift the curse and made it a haven for his Order.

During the Age of Mortals Dalamar teleported the Tower accidentally to Nightlund, Lord Soth’s domain, and ended up getting kicked out. Womp womp.

Description: This is the tallest of the Towers at 600 feet, and even in Nightlund the place is still a cursed bastion of evil. The foundations and the surrounding forest have a warped, decrepit appearance. Innumerable archives, museums, and libraries still contain much knowledge as well as strange magical items unrecognizable by modern eyes. Its only inhabitants are aberrant beings known as the Live Ones who are the cast-off remnants of Raistlin’s attempts at magically creating life, and the Tower’s Great Laboratory holds one of the five Portals to the Abyss.

During the Age of Mortals the relocation to Nightlund placed it within the Forest of Cypress, which is home to wandering souls whose mere touch drains the Strength from those unable to evade their pursuit. The Shoikan Grove’s aura of fear is still in effect, and there are countless undead patrolling the woods. The curse which presides over the Tower is back and in full effect, and there is no current known means of lifting it. The Master of the Tower during the Kingpriest’s purges currently exists as a spectre and guardian of the gates. He is a more reasonable 12th-level Black Robe wizard than the uber-powerful Masters of today.

Istar housed the greatest collection of White Robes upon Krynn, their home away from home when their leaders weren’t meeting at the Conclave in Wayreth. During the Empire’s early years they had a great relationship with the Kingpriests, acting as government advisors. But in later years the final Kingpriests began to fear and resent their power.

History: With Daltigoth in the west, Palanthas in the north, and Wayreth in the south, a Tower was needed to occupy Ansalon’s east. There were many great cities with which the wizards could use as a nearby hub, but instead the White Robes chose a poor fishing village named Istar. Although their peers were angry at the choice, a seer named Asanta saw visions that this meager village would grow into the mightiest bastion of good in the world. And in later years she’d be proven right...for a time. The White Robes helped the city-state of Istar grow into a proper nation and then an empire, helping them conquer their rivals and erect their mighty spires. Amusingly the Legends of the Twins sourcebook illuminated that Istar’s earliest years were less about being holy and Lawful Good and more about waging economic warfare to become a thriving merchant hub. Which doesn’t seem very White-Robey in my view.

The people’s positive attitudes for the wizards waned when they devoted time and resources in fighting Takhisis’ forces elsewhere on Krynn. The nomads of Dravinaar, Black Robe allies and long-time rivals of Istar, waited for the wizards’ numbers to move before they struck, and the clerics of good-aligned churches filled in to protect them with holy powers. When a later civil war engulfed Istar, the White Robes backed the wrong contender to the throne and managed to avoid charges of treason through their own groves’ defenses and an uneasy truce.

When the final Kingpriest Beldinas took the throne, things worsened when the Wizards appointed a Red Robe and not a White as an advisor. And a decree to ban the Black Robes from all of the Towers (even the ones in Palanthas and Daltigoth, outside the Empire’s boundaries) was ignored. The Kingpriest did not like this, and after a failed assassination attempt by a Black Robe he settled on enacting a KILL ALL THE WIZARDS law.

The White Robes realized that the Kingpriest’s forces would claim the tower when their grove defenses were sabotaged, so they chose to evacuate the place and took as many artifacts and resources as they could via teleportation. The Kingpriest converted its use as a storehouse for blasphemous relics, both as a sort of museum to intimidate his religious enemies and a safehouse for magic items and propaganda deemed too dangerous to slip into the public’s hands.

Description: The Tower of Istar is a thing of beauty, its crystalline windows casting sunlight into rainbows and its five crimson turrets looking like they hold the moon of Solinari in its grasp at night. The wizards’ apartments all had balconies from which they could look out over the city, and windows were enchanted in the pre-antimage days to make it seem like the tower was made of stars. When the Tower was surrendered to the Kingpriest it became a darker, more drab affair, a shrine to heresy and supposed heresy of even good-aligned faiths. Many modern clerics theorize that this was the reason the gods took offense and sent the Cataclysm down upon Krynn.

The Balakan Grove is beautiful, unlike the last two towers’ creepy woods. Its primary defense was altering intruders’ memories to the point that they forgot the reason why they were there and emerge outside with no desire to visit again. Before its occupation, the Tower had a Chamber of Eyes which enhanced the power of scrying magic cast within its vicinity.

We also have a stat block of the last Conclave leader before the Cataclysm: Vincil Da Jevra, a 21st-level Red Robe Wizard. Yes you’re reading that right: 21st, although he has no ability or feat required to cast Epic level spells.

Daltigoth’s history overall fared better than its counterparts in Palanthas and Istar. The Empire of Ergoth was more tolerant of arcane magic, and the Red Robes helped defend the Empire from foreign threats but otherwise did not have much desire to meddle in politics. Sadly Ergoth would join the other countries in anti-mage sentiment over time.

History: Initially the Master of the Red Robes sought to build a Tower in Tarsis, the most beautiful city in Ansalon at the time. The local merchant princes agreed to let the wizards build there, but their greed sought to bleed the Order dry in new taxes and fees made up on the spot. In a fit of anger the Master destroyed his design plans and resigned as head of the Red Robes. An Ergothian mage by the name of Greytooth decided to build the tower in his homeland near a tense border region. As to why, the Empire could use the wizards as a safe buffer, and as part of gaining funds for Tower construction the Red Robes and more than a few Whites would serve in Ergoth’s armies. Their arcane talents proved invaluable in more than a few battles. The only low point was when the Emperor took offense at a Tower colored red rather than white, figuring the latter would better reflect his civilizations’ nobility. So the wizards played a prank by pretending to build a white Tower using illusion magic but upon its grand opening dispelled the illusions which revealed its red color:


This could have caused a great deal of trouble, but Greytooth knew Pakin for a pragmatic ruler, and also one possessed of a sense of humor. When summoned to the imperial palace to explain what had happened, Greytooth shrugged. “The stones beneath your city have spoken their will, Majesty,” he declared. “They did not wish to dim your bright and shining realm with their own glory.”

Pakin laughed at this, as Greytooth knew he would. Besides, there was no way for Pakin to change the Tower, now that it had taken form, other than tearing it down, which would mean no more magical aid for his armies. Still laughing, he proclaimed that the Tower of Daltigoth would stand as it was: “For as long as this great empire stands astride Krynn.”

The wizards of the west enjoyed a relative golden age in comparison to their peers, but this would not last. When a rebel movement lead by who would become the founder of Solamnia threatened to split the Empire, the Red Robes’ loyalties were torn as Vinas Solamnus countedmages among his allies. The Red Robes chose to remain neutral, Solamnia split off from Ergoth, and the Order barely averted an internal catastrophe by helping rebuild damages from the rebellion. When Ergoth began to be eclipsed by the rise of Solamnia and Istar, it seemed that the crimson-robed mages’ time in the sun was coming to an end.

During the Age of Might Ergoth saw a repeating series of foolish and selfish rulers which caused the relationship with the wizards to falter. There was a point when even the Conclave debated relocating the Tower. The Ergothian-wizard alliance broke when two of the Emperor’s sons died in a botched assassination attempt of the Kingpriest by a Black Robe wizard. Once the purges began the Ergothian Empire was all too willing to aid Istar in a joint assault on the Tower of Daltigoth which was also their capital city. When the Red Robes realized that they could not win the battle they decided to take their enemies down with them by magically exploding the Tower. This spell destroyed over a quarter of the city and killed off much of Ergoth’s leadership. Even before the Cataclysm the tottering old empire of the west had well and truly died: first they split ties with the mages, and after the Cataclysm so did the North split from the South.

Description: Befitting its origin as a military fort, Daltigoth is more stout and practical in design than the soaring spires of the other Towers, and the foundations of its stones are more or less unknown as they are a most unnatural color of blood which requires no paint. Its Kadothan Grove was also encircled by an outer wall with an open passage allowing entry. Its natural defenses warped space so that intruders were caught in an ever-lengthening journey; during this time the surrounding pine needles and crickets emitted sleep-inducing sounds and scents which could put even elves to dreaming.

The Tower within has straight halls and passages allowing for ease of movement, and parapets for the Red Robes to rain down spells and arrow-fire on invaders. The very hallways enhance the potency of illusion spells cast within, which were used to great effect during the Istar-Ergothian invasion.

Our final tower was once called Qim Sudri, built in Ansalon’s southeast nation of Dravinaar. A no-man’s land of warlords and despots, only the Black Robes were ruthless enough to gain the fear and respect of the locales. When said nation was invaded by Istar, the tower was renamed the more proper Istaran name of Losarcum.

History: The high turnover rate and embrace of selfishness and evil made the Black Robes the least organized of the Orders, so it seemed strange that they’d dedicate a Tower all to themselves. The Master of the Order at the time only gained near-universal respect and fear by killing not one, but three of his rivals that challenged him. Finding a place to build their Tower wasn’t easy, as most cities and nations did not want them as neighbors. They claimed the Dravinaar city of Qim Sudri whose people grew up under generations of violence and blood feuds: it was theorized that a group of evil wizards would not have trouble blending in with such a place. And when said warlords tried and failed to attack the Tower-in-process, they learned to respect their new neighbors’ power. The Black Robes were all too eager to get involved in local politics and appoint tyrants friendly to their goals. There was even one point when the Master of the Tower challenged the city’s ruler to a duel of beasts, summoning a dragon to fight for him when the best the opposition had were dogs and hawks. Needless to say the dragon ate the human losers as well as the animal ones.

Dravinaar was shaping up to be a veritable eastern power in Ansalon with the Black Robes ruling openly or as advisors, although during the Third Dragon War their luck ran out when they thought to attack Istar when the White Robes were busy fighting Takhisis. Istar had a veritable force of clerics to protect their capital and repelled them with such force that their nation went into a period of rapid decline. Istar’s theocracy decided to conquer Dravinaar to enlighten them, and the long-suffering population found it a dramatic improvement over the former tyrants. The Black Robes’ Tower was the only standing monument to the bad old days, a black knife jutting out of the holy land. The Black Robes decided to avoid Istar’s ire by pretending to go along with a demand to leave, using magic to make it seem that their Tower was evacuated.

But even this charade wouldn’t last, and the Black Robes were causing trouble elsewhere in Ansalon, so they became the first targets during the Kingpriest’s purges. The discovery of the illusion and an assassination attempt by a Black Robe was all the pretext the Kingpriest needed to declare war on all of High Sorcery, and like Daltigoth the Tower’s own Master blew up the building than let it fall into the hands of the enemy.

Description: The Tower’s structure was made of black obsidian shaped like a dagger rising into the sky, earning it the name the “Black Knife” among the people of Dravinaar. Its position on the promontory east of the city made it cast a long shadow down upon Losarcum, and it never reflected the moonlight of Solinari or Lunitari but it did give an outline of Nuitari to those who looked through the tower windows. The apartments’ inhabitants were organized by their hierarchy in the Black Robes, with the greatest living at the peak, and nearly half of the towers’ rooms were in caverns beneath the first floor. The Tsorthan Grove’s defense was to magnify an intruders’ emotions to the point that they were driven insane.

Beyond the Towers

Now that we covered all five Towers, this last section of the chapter details four other notable locations important to High Sorcery.

Zhaman, the Forbidden Fortress: Zhaman was built by a Black Robe archmage and mercenary who specialized in killing kings and overthrowing governments so that his clients could enact regime change. He used his ill-gotten wealth to built his own private fortress near Thorbadin, and it got a foul reputation among the local dwarves. The place was a veritable death-trap, full of captured monsters and magical guardians along with an ever-changing crystalline maze to confound any invaders. Zhaman’s reign of terror came to an end when he accepted a contract to overthrow the Orders and planned an assault on the Tower of Wayreth. Suffice to say that he and his mercenary army died horribly, and the Orders repossessed his fortress to convert to their own use before sealing it when they could no longer maintain it.

The fortress was later reinhabited by the archmage Fistandantilus, who used it as a base during the Dwarfgate Wars. Its entrance was reshaped to look like a giant imposing stone skull.

Castle Uth Krevan, the Citadel of Gadar: The Solamnic border keep of Uth Krevan had its entire noble family slaughtered by a peasant revolution; abandoned by the people, the place became inhabited by hobgoblin raiders. A Red Robe Wizard by the name of Gadar had a falling out with the Conclave and decided to reclaim the castle for himself where he could practice magic in peace.

But of course, a mage who has the power to single-handedly kill off troublesome hobgoblins and repair a castle is almost doomed to end up involved in interesting times: his family fell under a wasting disease which no arcane magic could cure. Gadar began to experiment in necromancy in finding ways of saving them. The Castle became a terrible, ghost-haunted place as the mage kidnapped countless people for experiments. His reign of terror came to an end when two Heroes of the Lance, Tanis and Flint, invaded his castle and killed the mage. This was before the Dragonlance Chronicles proper, while they were on a five-year journey to find signs of the true gods before reuniting with friends at the Inn of the Last Home.

The Castle was once claimed by the Knights of Takhisis as a fortress, but it stands empty once again.

Ulgaard, the Dark One’s Hall: This is one of Fistandantilus’ hidden lairs, an underground maze of tunnels that could only be entered by teleportation. He used it as one of his many safehouses, a training area for his apprentices, a place to summon demonic minions, and a supernatural prison housing the undying bodies of his most hated enemies. It remained untouched until Raistlin and Dalamar learned of its secret location.

The School of Mysteries, Towerstone’s Hope: During the War of Souls the loss of the three moons reduced the Wizards of High Sorcery to but a few dozen desperate holdouts. A young White Robe by the name of Adriana Towerstone came into the Order shortly before Takhisis stole the world. Unwilling to admit defeat, she did all she could to study magic in hopes of finding a way to reverse this unfortunate event. Adriana studied for years, isolated in far-off libraries. When the gods reclaimed the world she was an old woman, but learned so much that she was now one of the most powerful White Robe wizards. The refounded Order of White Robes even desired her as Master, but instead Ariana wanted to build a school of her own which the Conclave more than happily gave her. She built three towers outside her old Solamnic family home, and her school is new but steadily growing. The low number allows for a more intimate, hands-on feel where she can better oversee her apprentices’ development. The School of Mysteries even built a Grove of its own, which instead of warding off intruders makes them kind-hearted and eager to learn magic.

Thoughts So Far: The Towers seem to cover a middle ground in terms of Dungeon Master aids. We have overviews on the five Towers and their histories, but not enough detail to run games in them barring a barebones structure. The fact that only one of them is friendly to visitors in the modern campaign setting, or even the War of the Lance, limits their gaming potential. Palanthas can make for a potentially fun dungeon crawl, and Istar is currently beneath the waves, but the outline for the latter Tower is pre-Cataclysm. The stat blocks for the various Tower Masters and former Conclave leader are so high-level that you’re not going to use them in most campaigns. Ironically the more minor locations at the end are the friendliest era-wise, but they have even less space dedicated to them.

Join us next time as we cover in the next chapter how to create Tests of High Sorcery for your own wizardly PCs!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Chapter Five: the Test

Forgive the lack of relevant pictures, this chapter is short but otherwise all text…

...but what a chapter it is! Unlike the previous which are more overall backstory, this one is all about the Test and more importantly how the Dungeon Master can craft one for his own gaming group.

The Test was invented around the Age of Dreams to cut the wheat from the chaff; and when Wayreth was being built people were hearing all about this new ‘moon magic.’ In no time at all the Orders were dismayed at many people showing up were quite clearly unsuited for being a wizard:


Some of those wanting to belong were serious students of magic and would be welcome members. Others obviously had no interest in the Art of magic at all. Among these were kender, who came in droves. Young nobles arrived with the expressed belief that learning magic would be “jolly fun.” Some announced they had developed schemes for using magic to turn a profit. Still others came with more sinister purposes, convinced that they could use magic in obtaining revenge against those who had wronged them.

The kender conspiracy theorists were right!

A screening process was necessary, and so the Test was born: not only to measure a prospective mage’s competency, but also to ensure that they were “motivated by dedication to the magic and not purely selfish or sinister reasons.”

So umm, what are the Black Robes then?

But most importantly, the declaration that any who took the Test and failed would be executed caused many people to rethink whether or not they wanted to take up the path of High Sorcery. This in theory would ensure that only the best people would succeed. In practice this initially caused a dramatic upsurge in renegades when the Test’s requirement were applied to all current Order members including the Conclave and other high-ranking people. But the Gods of Magic lent their support behind the universality of the Test, and attempts at renegades breaking off and forming their own factions turned to failure.

The Conclave monitors known minor wizards throughout Ansalon and gives out magical messengers bearing invitations to wizards when they reach 3rd or 4th level in an arcane casting class. The message is a cordial invitation to a Tower (Wayreth post-Cataclysm) explaining the details of the Test as well as the boons for formally joining an order. 3rd-level and above spells are regarded as too dangerous to keep in the hands of renegades, so characters who ignore the Test and keep gaining arcane casting levels (those who choose to remain dabblers are safely ignored) risk being branded a renegade and hunted down.

Should the prospective mage choose to accept, they must travel to a Tower of their own volition and skill, which is a pseudo-test of its own to measure their dedication.


The three Orders come together to create a Test for a new candidate. Using many magical tools at their disposal, the wizards giving the Test learn intimate details about the wizard to be tested. Looking into the past, the archmages view some of the incidents that shaped the candidate during childhood. They peer into dreams, and learn the secrets that the potential mage will not admit to anyone. Though some might view this as an invasion of privacy, such scrutiny is an important step in crafting a Test that is personal, challenging, and unforgettable. Wizards who agree to take the Test are given to know that such an investigation into their private lives is going to be undertaken and may choose not to proceed with the Test.

Ermm, I wouldn’t want most people, much less a Black Robe guy, knowing my innermost fears and secrets. This whole thing sounds like it has potential for blackmail material. Granted I could see the Orders doing this as a safety precaution against turncoats and traitors, but the book doesn’t really acknowledge these weaknesses. Beyond this the wizard has every opportunity to back out of a Test before it begins, even up to the very last moment. But once it begins they must either succeed or die trying.

Crafting a Test of High Sorcery

Enough about the backgrounds for the Tests, how do we build one to run for wizard PCs? First off we get the basic structure: every Test takes place in a Mindscape spell, with real rooms connected within the Tower and the surrounding land known as the Testing Grounds to further enhance the illusion. Each challenge or trial takes place within a “room” which can be as small as a closet or as large as an entire building or city within the Mindscape. The connections between the rooms are typically literal doors which vanish once they’re passed and can defy the mage’s perception of time and space: one room may be a deserted island at night, and a door standing on its own on the beach may lead into a room which is an undersea palace. Wizards cannot use magic to circumvent these rooms, and barring summoning spells they cannot make contact with people not part of the Test without failing due to cheating.

The Test has at least 3 challenges that examine a mage’s knowledge and use of magic, tailored to the strengths (and weaknesses) of said mage to ensure a reasonable level of challenge. There must also be at least three tasks during the Tests that cannot be solved through their current spells alone, and one challenge must involve a confrontation of some sort with a known ally. And all Tests involve pitting the mage in solo combat against a dangerous opponent. In addition to skill, several rooms of a Test need to have some sort of moral challenge which can give an insight into the mage’s outlook on life and thus determine which Order they will join upon completion.

Wizard PCs who act differently than their alignment during the Test have said alignment changed to match their Order, which is...something, although that does bring up the question of mages who decide to act differently knowing that the Test is ‘not real’ unless the Mindscape is meant to illuminate how you really are on the inside.

The Encounter Levels, or total measurement of a challenge juxtaposed against the Average Party Level, differs depending on whether the mage is taking the Test on their own or chooses to bring along allies to help them: solo mages face challenges typically 2 below their level, while standard party sizes of 3-4 people follow the typical 3rd Edition Encounter Building rules. 1/3rd of the Test’s Challenges are 1 higher than the average, while the solo duels place the mage against an enemy 1 Challenge Rating higher than their level; in rare cases where the Test-takers permit allies to help, they can be 2-4 CR higher than the Average Party Level.

Finally, the Test-taker(s) has the option before every room to alter the Risk Level: each room gives out 2 Risks Points upon completion by default, but can be altered to as low as 1 or as high as 4. Each Risk Point below or above 2 alters the relevant d20 rolls of the challenges and opponents by 1: enemies get bonuses or penalties on attacks, saves, skill checks, etc, while the DC for obstacles the PC(s) rolls against shifts by the reverse factor.

I’d like to mention that unlike other Editions, +1 and +2 modifiers individually are nothing special. A big portion of the D20 system is combining individual modifiers together to get powerful buffs, and the swinginess of a twenty-sided die along with some spells which can really shift things around. For example, Jump gives +30 on Jump checks and is a 1st level spell, while Displacement causes attacks against you to miss 50% of the time regardless of modifiers. This means that going whole-hog at 4 Risk Points may be more a moderate inconvenience rather than a dire upsurge in challenge for players who know what they’re doing.

At the conclusion of a Test, the Risk Points are added up and divided by the total number of areas* to create an average. All mages receive a permanent magical item as a reward ranging from 750 to 16,000 gold/steel pieces ideally themed around their casting style. An average of 2 Risk Points also gives a mage the opportunity to permanently increase their Intelligence score by 1 on a DC 20 Intelligence check. 3 Risk Points also gives the wizard a free bonus feat which must be replated to magic (item creation, metamagic, Spell Focus, etc). And for those brave souls who averaged 4 Risk Points, they have their soul changed in a process known as the Soulforge which bestows upon them an irreversible physical change. This is what gave Raistlin his hourglass eyes which cause him to see all things decay.

*it doesn’t say if by total they mean all conceivable rooms (22) or the number of rooms the mage passed through to complete the Test. I presume the latter given that depending on their route the mage can go through as few as 3 rooms or as many as 9.

So what does a Soulforge give, mechanics-wise, given it is the hardest reward to achieve?

Nothing. Barring DM Fiat it is entirely cosmetic or a minor handicap, related to the Test in some way or a perceived personality flaw of the wizard’s: eyes that change colors to match their mood for a wizard who loses control of their emotions too easily, a forked tongue for a wizard who is a pathological liar, a magical tattoo which changes based on the surrounding environment for an absent-minded wizard, etc.

That’s a real kick in the pants. You’d only ever put Risk Points that high from a mechanics perspective to get the most potentially expensive magic item reward you can.

Rest Areas are places of comfort and safety, intentionally created so that a mage may sleep, tend to their wounds, and refresh their spell selection. They usually take the forms of bedrooms, inns, scenic areas of nature, and friendly villages with helpful inhabitants.

Battle Areas are straightforward opponents who wish to do the mage harm, or potential harm depending on the mage’s actions. Unlike the duel areas they are not one-on-one and can include multiple (usually weaker) opponents. They rarely take place on a “Final Destination” featureless plane and oftentimes have bystanders, potential allies, and environments which can be helpful or harmful.

Hazard Areas are places which can be harmful to a mage but are not an enemy to overcome with violence; such enemies that may exist are tangential to the main challenge. The room’s obstacles can range from typical dungeon traps to deadly weather and earthquakes.

Task Areas are not usually lethal but present a puzzle or conundrum which requires wit and skill to overcome. The samples given include an easily-offended spirit running a crooked shell game which must be won to pass, a medusa asking the PC to fetch her a cup of water from a well with no rope or bucket, and the like.

There is only one Duel Area in an entire Test, and its opponent is always another spellcaster whose skills are tailored to exploit the PCs’ weaknesses. Samples given are a wizard with a sense type the PC doesn’t have (such as darkvision) who exploits the environment to blind them, a clone of opposite alignment, and a rogue/wizard who knows all of the hidden traps in an area and will bait the PC into triggering them.

Magic Areas are a bit of a catch-all category in that they are specifically designed to be solved by the mage’s spell selection. Rest areas often give clues on what spells may be ideal for future Magic Areas based on this. Examples provided include the proper use of divination spells in a maze to pick the safe rooms rather than the monster or trap-filled ones, using illusion spells to throw off enemies hunting the mage, or being trapped in a burning building where water or movement/teleportation-based spells can help the mage escape.

Failure Means Death

In spite of all the talk about the weighty responsibility of taking the Test, the writers felt that killing off a PC for failure may be too mean and come up with ways for a PC to succeed in spite of failure. Rather than being a penalty for a bad die roll and poor luck, those in charge of the Test may feel that a wizard has proven their worth and let them pass but give them a physical mark or debilitation as a reminder.


Death should be the punishment for:

1. A wizard who fails repeatedly during the Test due to lack of study: he casts the wrong spell, uses the wrong spell components, can’t recall the spell, can’t read his own scroll, etc.

2. a wizard who is careless and/or foolhardy: he gets drunk at the rest area instead of studying his spells; he refuses to take the Test seriously, but clowns around, behaves stupidly.

3. A wizard who indicates in some way during the Test that he is or may become a threat to the Orders or to fellow wizards: a Thorn Knight who lies about his true allegiance in order to sneak into the Tower to assassinate the Master, a wizard-thief who plans to use the Test to try to steal a valuable artifact.

I cannot help but feel that this takes out a lot of the dramatic tension in a Test. PCs are competent in their field of choice by default and #1 and #2 won’t really happen unless the player role-plays their character as such. #3 would be the kind of thing that would be detected during a pre-Test screening as I’m sure it’d count as a “deepest secret.” But I can see the Thorn Knights and skilled mages finding ways around this, although in the latter case they’d likely be a lot higher than 4th level.

Thoughts So Far: Although it has some warts, this a pretty good outline for Dungeon Masters to build Tests. For games which start at higher level (like the 3rd Edition Dragonlance Chronicles update) I can see some wizard PCs preemptively stating that they took their Test at 4 Risk Points to get the most boons, but a free feat, magic item, and potential +1 Intelligence aren’t exactly what I’d call gamebreaking. I will admit that I had a lot of fun with this chapter in high school, and used it to create my own Tests for my Dragonlance campaigns. If I were to do it now I’d suggest altering the DCs for larger factors for well-built PCs and dispense with the Encounter Level in favor of eyeballing enemy stats. This is because Wizards of the Coast’s own designers admitted that the 3e Challenge Rating system was broke and they just winged it in their own games.

Join us next time as we look at new monsters and magical minions in Chapter Six: Creatures!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!
I just recalled one minor detail way back in Dragons of Despair's 3rd Edition update, but it's quite surprising given that it literally adds 3 more DMPCs to the tale!

They have no illustrations, but the intent is that if the current party is somehow too small they could be hired on as mercenaries: they're a Barbarian, Ranger, and Rogue who in the original AD&D were just tavern patrons in Haven who could tell the PCs the latest goings-on in Abanasinia.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 08:28 on Dec 30, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Chapter Six: Creatures

We’re in the home stretch, baby! This post is a 2-for-1 special due to the fact that the final chapter is really short. The meat of this section covers the new monsters, creatures which are either artificial creations of wizards or have some ability which makes them vital or dangerous to the work of High Sorcery.

Some things to clear up first. Quite a few of these monsters are related to the Ethereal Plane, which works slightly different in Dragonlance. For one, it is also the realm of dreams where spectral realms are conjured up by unconscious mortal minds. The Ethereal Plane as it’s commonly known in D&D parlance is the shores of the Material Plane, part of a much larger Ethereal Sea (aka the Deep Ethereal) which stretches to worlds beyond and is full of strange monsters never before seen on Krynn. When Takhisis stole the world during the Chaos War, her relocation of Krynn picked up quite a few strange monsters along the way.

We don’t have any new Familiars, but the book explains how the mundane animals are by far the most common. While some extraplanar familiars are not unknown, they are not exactly a welcome presence in magical academies. Pseudodragons are rare to the point of extinction in the Fifth Age, and during the Fourth Age they’d be in hiding pre-War of the Lance.

Dread Beasts are undead animals meant to serve as spies for necromancers. Unlike typical zombies they are intelligent and have a telepathic link with their creator which can work out to 50 miles, and they emit disease and foul smells which can debilitate opponents in battle. We also have a Create Dread Beast spell and rules for having them as cohorts, although the monster and spell are evil-aligned so it’s not exactly suitable for heroic parties.

In Dragonlance the Ethereal Plane is closely linked to the dreams of mortals, although the unconscious musings of powerful entities and lucid dreamers can form more ‘real’ substances. Spells such as Mindscape can further solidify these phantasmal realities. Dreamshadows are quite simply illusory entities representing existing creatures: they are a simple template which has all the base qualities of the character/creature in question, save that their attacks count as illusions for rules purposes and they deal 1 Wisdom damage on all of their attacks. Dreamwraiths on the other hand are a specific species of malevolent entity spawned from nightmares and wicked thoughts. They function more as “hit and run” enemies who have high Wisdom and Charisma based skills, and in addition to the Dreamshadow traits they have a gaze attack which causes depression.

Eldritch Avatars are manifestations of raw magic, either from a powerful magical item or a nexus of arcane power. They can take just about any form, from monsters to humanoids, but their unifying factor is that they cannot ever make use of or learn divine magic. Eldritch Emissary is a template for magical locations whose main abilities include being able to cast spells from 1-3 cleric domains as arcane spells, the ability to reform upon death, and can temporarily discorporate from anti-magic spells. Eldritch Haunts are keyed to specific magic items. They are capable of shapechanging into said item (they are one and the same) and back to its creature form, can use the abilities of said item as though wielding it (such as gaining armor bonus if armor, cast spells from a wand’s charge as spell-like abilities, etc), and have the power to drain other magic items of charges to replenish its own charges.

Fogdrakes are an ancient species of dragon which are nearly extinct. They are wicked souls who glide instead of fly and can detect when an arcane spell or magical item has been “cast” within 300 feet. They can also charge on a full attack, rage as a barbarian, and are constantly surrounded by a curtain of mist which they can see through thanks to Blindsight.

Huldrefolk are basically “grey aliens” in Dragonlance. They existed since the Age of Starbirth, making them older than all life forms on Krynn, and began to depart to the Ethereal Sea through standing stone portals once the gods put the souls of stars into mortal bodies. Huldrefolk are believed to be the ancestors of all fey, and while some visit Krynn they are so rare as to be mythical. They can cast spells as 8th-level sorcerers and gain a variety of powers related to a natural domain (Animal, Plant, or one of the four elements): they learn said domain spells as sorcerer spells, can merge their bodies into things made of said domain, teleport between them akin to the Tree Stride spell, and speak with the objects of said domain even if they’re not normally capable of speech.

Remnants are incorporeal undead which look like glowing cloaked skeletons. They are what happens when a powerful arcane caster dies from a surge of raw magical energy, which in turn spontaneously animates them. Remnants are mostly (but not always) chaotic evil beings resentful of the power they lost. Much like the shadow undead they can create more of themselves via an ability drain touch (Intelligence) and are powerless when exposed to natural daylight.

The Thaumavore is our final monster, extraplanar incorporeal eel-like things from the Ethereal Sea. They are completely alien to Krynn and said plane’s very environment harms them, so they only ever appear in the mortal world due to a botched summoning spell, unstable planar rifts such as Takhisis stealing the world during the Chaos War, and so on and so forth. They are instinctual beings, capable of detecting, seeking out, and draining magical energy for sustenance as a touch attack. The more spell levels worth of energy they drain the more innate magical spell-like abilities they can cast. Said spell-like abilities include a healthy mixture of defense (blink, protection from good/evil, anti-magic field, etc), mobility (dimension door, plane shift), and debuffs (ray of enfeeblement, touch of idiocy, confusion, etc). The Plane Shift spell is the most costly in terms of charges, so needless to say it will cast that as soon as possible to return to the Ethereal Plane.

Chapter Seven: Rivals

Numbering a mere five pages, this is the shortest chapter in the book and covers the Wizards of High Sorcery’s relationships with other spellcasters and magical organizations of Ansalon. It’s rather general and broad-sweeping, for example covering divine spellcasters in general as opposed to specific priesthoods.

Renegades are perhaps the most well-known adversary to the Orders, although not the greatest currently (that’d be the Knights of the Thorn). They come from all walks of life but their unifying factor is their unwillingness to work within the strictures of the Conclave and Orders. Although those who refuse the Test are perhaps the most well-known, there are more than a few Robed wizards who end up exiled from their parent organization. As the Red and Black Robes are more hands-off in regards how individual members conduct themselves, said exiles tend to be very dangerous individuals pursuing some universal taboo or committed great crimes against the Orders as a whole. A few renegades are technically such, but live in such isolated or far-flung corners of Krynn that the Wizards of High Sorcery simply haven’t discovered them yet.

We have stats for one renegade, a wicked transmuter by the name of Rieve who has a bit of a folkloric reputation among story-tellers. He’s a 10th level (ex) Black Robe who specializes in evocation and transmutation magic, particularly polymorph and self-enhancement buffs.

Sorcerers doesn’t really detail much that hasn’t been covered in previous chapters, save for the fact that most of them describe spellcasting as “drawing power from within and within the world.” Most of them are technically renegades but can get away with it due to the fact that they aren’t limited by typical factors such as literacy which need to produce wizards. Compounding this is the fact that during the Fifth Age they were the major arcane spellcasters for half a century while the Orders remained powerless and thus have a head start on numbers and power in the Fifth Age.

Knights of the Thorn are the largest organized opposition to the Wizards of High Sorcery on Ansalon. All three Orders attempted to destroy them in their infancy during the siege of Storm’s Keep. Said battle ended in a draw, where the Orders were unable to complete their mission and had to retreat when Takhisis stole away the world. Although said goddess is now dead, the Knights of Neraka control a huge portion of central and eastern Ansalon. Unlike the Orders they are just as willing to recruit sorcerers into their ranks, meaning that in the current Age of Mortals they are pretty much the largest group of arcane spellcasters in Ansalon. The Orders have yet to resume their war, but it is only a matter of time.

Clerics have been treated hands-off by the Wizards of High Sorcery* due to the fact that unlike sorcery there’s no real means of said magic growing beyond the caster’s control due to the strong hold their patron deity has over the acquisition of divine magic. While Wizards of High Sorcery can only have their respective moons as their patron deity, they can respect the ethos of various gods: Gilean’s emphasis on knowledge makes his priesthood a popular choice to work with for wizards, while Sirrion’s connection to alchemy and creativity is also a boon. The White Robes have a close working relationship with the priesthoods of Paladine and Mishakal due to said deities’ roles in the War of the Lance and in restoring and recovering lore from ancient ruins. The Black Robes are an exception, for Takhisis’ attempts at making her own wizarding Order has made him paranoid of losing any more potential Black Robes. Combine this with the fact that most non-Takhisis evil gods are a rather reclusive lot (and Sargonnas’ strong link to the anti-arcane minotaurs) makes this feeling from the priesthoods mutual.

*Historically the opposite has been true, what with the Kingpriest and all.

Mystics are the other primal spellcaster which emerged during the Age of Mortals. Its power source stems from a universal energy present in all living things, and is the “divine” equivalent to sorcery even though it does not stem from any of the gods. Wizards are as distrusting of mystics as they are of sorcerers partly due to its similar seeming Chaos-spawned origins. However they are a bit more tolerant of the Citadel of Light as an institution which trains said mystics, although in a more “pick your battles” way in that the Knights of the Thorn are much larger, more powerful, and more present a threat.

Although it’s nestled in the back of the book, it is technically impossible to be a Mystic Theurge of any kind in Ansalon barring the Knights of Takhisis during the Chaos War. But with Takhisis dead, that avenue is now lost. As a moon counts as a “patron deity” wizards/clerics have to choose one or the other. The Mystic entry also explained that attempts for arcane spellcasters of both kinds in learning mysticism have failed as it appears that wild magic and focused magic simply cannot mix. You'd think that this is something that would be included in the core Dragonlance Campaign Setting considering how explicit the rules have been regarding class restrictions of other kinds: no post-Cataclysm non-evil divine magic before the War of the Lance, no spontaneous casting classes before the Chaos War, play a multi-class Knight of Solamnia instead of a Paladin, etc.

Thoughts So Far: The monsters are quite interesting and I can see them being used for some nifty encounters. An Eldritch Haunt magical item can make for an offbeat sort of treasure, while Dread Beasts are perfect for necromancer minions beyond the stock skeleton/zombie tropes. If there’s one weakness in the bestiary it would be that the chapter’s rather template-heavy and so there’s not as much pre-created stat blocks ready to go. Remnants are too similar to shadows, while the huldrefolk feel a bit too sci-fi for Dragonlance. I do like the thaumavore even though they’re unlikely to be a “long-term” opponent or the kind that will hang out in a room during a dungeon crawl.

I don’t have much to say on Rivals one way or the other than the fact it gives out some rather vital information too late in the book. The Thorn Knights’ prominence puts the anti-sorcerer bias into some perspective, although they’re never mentioned in prior chapters, whether pro-recruitment (“we need to get the sorcerers to trust and join our Orders because they’ll otherwise be ripe pickings for the Knights”) or anti-sorcerer (“most sorcerers are likely sympathetic to the Thorn Knights so we may as well persecute/kill them”).

Concluding Thoughts: Towers of High Sorcery is a mixed bag. It has a lot of good material to use in one’s gaming groups, Dragonlance or otherwise. But there’s a lot of material which is either mechanically suspect, like the “divine emulation” spells, or fluff text which is inconsistent with the world presented and ends up leaving more questions and plot holes than answers. There are times when it feels like chapters were written separate from each other rather than being part of a larger whole. Examples of this include key information being relegated to the very last pages, or how the Text is meant to weed out unethical minds despite the fact that the Black Robes are all about self-empowerment at the expense of others.

This is probably one of the few 3rd Edition sourcebooks where I can say that I liked the mechanical crunch more than the fluff; in the realm of third party products it’s usually the other way around. As to whether the book itself merits a purchase, I cannot say yes given that its chapters cover some very different ground and even by themselves do not often have enough material to use holistically beyond piecemeal insertions.

But that hasn’t quelled my passion for Dragonlance. For my next Let’s Read I’m going to cover the War of the Lance sourcebook, a setting companion which details the continent of Ansalon during the iconic original Dragonlance Adventures but for 3rd Edition!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 21:45 on Dec 30, 2019

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Night10194 posted:

D&D has always struggled with the Good Gods because the Gods in D&D tend to be DMPCs and actively involved in the plot and metaplot, on a personal level. At which point it is increasingly hard to square their good intentions with them being around and constantly doing things, but also having a plot in the first place.

Like all ethics and issues with writing ethics aside, that's one of the root issues. Paladine is involved in the story in a very personal way that then places very personal responsibility on the God and makes the whole 'non-interference' stuff look really suspect. And none of them are on a scale where you could really start talking about non-interference as something necessary to maintain free will or avoid disordering the universe or something; they're just really powerful individuals. Their smallness and their power both conspire to make it look worse for the Good Gods, especially when the Evil Gods are usually the direct villains of a lot of these stories and exist to be overcome or sent packing or otherwise defeated.

E: Take all that dumb poo poo with Fizban: That's a scenario where the God is right there, incarnate, and not only does the God not act to do anything about immediate harm and evil, but the God's silly disguise can potentially blow a bunch of people up with one of the random events. That's the kind of stuff that makes 'non-interference' sound dumb as hell, because Paladine's already there! Right there!

This is part of why I like the video game Actraiser. The point was that you were an angel/god helping civilization thrive by going around and fighting the big monsters mere mortals could not hope to defeat on their own while engaging in Sims-style domain development. While it may not be a friendly setting for "mortal PCs" it answers the common "what have the gods done for us" dilemma in D&D settings where they're active.

If I had to guess Fizban is meant to borrow the trope of gods in mortal disguise, although said concept is often a secret test of character for mortals when the god takes on a meek or otherwise unhelpful form. The troublesome mage suffering dementia fits this to a T, but there's no real negative consequences in the Chronicles for letting him drown at sea in Dragons of Deceit.

Seatox posted:

It's infuriating, isn't it? Like, there's a baseline of "Dragon vs Dragon aerial combat, jousting dragon-riding knights, chivalry, heroes, EPIC poo poo" that makes Dragonlance superficially cool, right up until you pay attention to anything else in the setting.

It does get a bit weird when the whole "metallic dragon army riding to battle" is meant to be a big reveal and turning point, and from a narrative standpoint for novels it makes the scene feel all the more epic when it happens. But it's not really friendly for many new players who may not necessarily want to wait 9 levels to take that Dragoon/Dragonrider class until it's OK for good dragons to openly fly out and about.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 22:42 on Dec 31, 2019


Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Happy New Year everyone! I figured that the first FATAL & Friends for this year should cover an appropriately iconic Dungeons & Dragons setting: Dragonlance during the War of the Lance!

As of 2020 the Dragonlance setting has had 4 official rulesets: 1st Edition AD&D, 2nd Edition AD&D, the unique SAGA System, and 3rd Edition D&D. For the first half of its lifespan the world’s primarily taken place during the War of the Lance, the notable conflict of the first adventures and novels and their immediate after years. The SAGA System was controversial, partly due to being a very wonky rule set and partly due to the fact that it took place during Dragons of Summer Flame. Said time period was Dragonlance’s Spellplague equivalent in regards to being a fandom base breaker. In 2003, novels were still being written for the current era by Margaret Weis and other authors, so when Dragonlance got a 3rd Edition sourcebook it took place at this time.

One of the largest demands by fans after its release was to provide aid on setting games during the War of the Lance, aka the 4th Age/Age of Despair. Being eager to please, Sovereign Press made a War of the Lance sourcebook one of their first major releases. This sourcebook was also notable for being one of the few D20 Dragonlance books where Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman got together to help write it. Although both authors individually (Weis in particular) worked on various 3rd Edition books such as Towers of High Sorcery, the Legends of the Twins was the only other product of which they both had credits. And who better than to write a setting sourcebook than the ones who created the setting over twenty years ago?

I should first note that this sourcebook is not a D20 conversion of the 14 original Dragonlance adventures; those were made into their own trilogy of sourcebooks. Rather, War of the Lance is a holistic overview of the continent of Ansalon during the time when the Dragonarmies are conquering much of it in the Dark Queen’s name. It’s technically set right before the first adventure opens up (Qualinesti has yet to be invaded, the Discs of Mishakal haven’t been retrieved from Xak Tsaroth, etc) but there is information on how the war develops and changes places over the years.

Chapter One: Characters

350 years ago, there was a mighty Empire by the name of Istar, and under the dominion of the Kingpriests sought to remove all evil from the face of Krynn. But it was this very zeal that led them to commit many atrocities. When the last Kingpriest sought to challenge and command the gods themselves, the pantheon answered him with a fiery mountain which plunged the capital and much of eastern Ansalon beneath the waves.

The world would never be the same again.

None of the Races of the Age of Despair were not left untouched. The loss of divine magic made plagues grow out of control. The sinking of land and alterations in climate led to many famines and forced migrations. Old treaties and friendships were abandoned, while elves and dwarves became isolationist and cut themselves off from the world. The minotaurs forged a new empire, their enslavement in Istar now a memory. People grew bitter at the gods, or in turn forget them as the centuries waned on and found solace in newer, false religions.

Humans, due to their short lifespans, were one of the quickest to forget the gods, and in time the divinities became much like fairy tales for children. Empires and nations were replaced with city-states, and even Solamnia broke up into semi-autonomous provinces. Even its renowned Knights found themselves in disrepute when commoners blamed them for either being unable to protect them or from too many of this once-noble order forgetting the spirit of the Oath and Measure. Cities quickly became havens of filth and disease, as the lack of divine magic and the withering of crops destroyed many more settlements; even those far from Istar’s reach.

Beyond the walled towns and sedentary farms, nomadic humans suffered from the disruption of their own food supplies. Migration routes and herds changed, and tribes passed into distant memory as they died off or were conquered and assimilated by stronger neighbors. There were some among the nomads who believed that this was all a test by the gods to measure their devotion, while others found new religions with ancestor worship growing increasingly common.

Elves still have grand civilizations in their forests, but they are a shadow of their former selves. Even this otherwise aloof and xenophobic people were horrified at the brutality the gods had wrought, but blamed the humans of Istar (and later all humans by extension) into provoking the Cataclysm. They still believed in the gods, but no longer worshiped them, angered at their abandonment. The Qualinesti kingdom closed down its borders when human and goblin warlords invaded their cities in the belief that they harbored magic and riches long since lost. The Silvanesti elves, who neighboring Istar, lost much of their own forests beneath the waves. They were similarly isolationist but viewed the abandonment of the gods as a “wise choice” for them to do likewise in regards to a world they felt was not worth saving. Both kingdoms noticed the rise of the Dragonarmies via magical surveillance, and the Silvanesti signed a nonaggression pact with these forces. Both kingdoms sought to prepare for a diaspora, and the invasion of Silvanesti by the Dragon Empire and its subsequent destruction was all the incentive Qualinesti’s inhabitants needed to start sailing west.

The Kagonesti elves long lived on Southern Ergoth but had scattered bands all across Ansalon. They met their brethren in exile upon their shores, and extended them permission to settle. A permission that would be exploited by the refugees, who used the opportunity to put the Kagonesti into indentured servitude. The Sea Elf tribes of the Dimernesti lost countless numbers from the Cataclysm, while explorers from the remote Dargonesti kingdoms inhabited the sunken ruins of Istar’s capital. Both clans remained isolated from each other and the surface world, something the Dark Queen took advantage of by sending sea dragons to menace their lands.

An Age of Despair was nothing new to the Ogre Races, whose lives were always of violence and hardship. The fall of their main adversary of Istar allowed them to invade lands now unable to defend themselves, and their societies existed mostly as independent bands. It was ironic then, that they would be the first victims of Takhisis’ chromatic dragons who sought to unite the ogre tribes under her new Empire. This of course meant killing off many of their leaders and rival tribes to impress the sheer might wielded by the newly-fledged Dragonarmies.

The Irda, those ogres who were spared from the good gods’ curse of ugliness for turning their backs on Takhisis eons ago, lived much as they did before: on isolated islands far from Ansalon’s coasts. But the Cataclysm caused a large schism in their society: some viewed it as a sign that their isolationism was wrong by letting evil go challenged in the world while others kept to the old ways. The former ventured into Ansalon disguised as wizards to battle warlords, murderers, and worse, but they suffered greatly for anti-wizard prejudice earned them hostility even from those they sought to protect.

The minotaurs, once enslaved by Istar, found themselves a free people in their new island homes. They viewed the Cataclysm as divine justice, of their god Sargas (known by other races as Sargonnas) freeing them from toil and servitude. They are now an empire unto themselves, claiming many islands beyond the known coasts of Ansalon, although their leadership was rife with infighting and treachery. The current Emperor Chot Es-Kalin entered into an alliance with the Dragonarmies; although neither side trusted the other, they both saw much to gain. Chot assigned rival houses to fight in the Dragonarmies in exchange for loot brought home, which motivated minotaurs for greed and vengeance upon old enemies while moving said rivals away from his empire.

Half-elves and half-ogres are outcasts, looked down upon by both sides of their ancestry. They are usually the result of sexual assault; among the elven nations half-elves are either pitied or mocked (among the Qualinesti) or cast out into the wilderness as mongrels (among the Silvanesti). Among human communities they fair little better, and in the Dragon Empire they are hunted down and executed like their elven parents. Half-ogres face similar prejudice, humans looking upon them as no different than monsters and ogres looking down upon them for being comparatively small and weak. Both half-elves and half-ogres are more likely than not to end up among groups which are more tolerant of the forsaken: mercenary companies, criminal guilds, cults, and wizarding Orders.

The Dwarves once had an interconnected civilization, but the Cataclysm tore their realms apart. The flooding of surface lands and destruction of old trade routes prevented the kingdoms of Kayolin, Thoradin, and Thorbadin from contacting each other. Food shortages in Thorbadin forced the dwarves to close their mountain gates, even from those of their brethren living outside. Those stranded would become the Neidar clan, aka hill dwarves, and a bloody civil war between them and the mountain dwarves over this. Meanwhile, the nation of Thoradin was overtaken by a horrible mold plague, with much of its pre-Cataclysm territory crushed and flooded. Many of the survivors were turned evil by the plague and formed the new nation of Zhakar.

The mountain dwarf kingdom of Thorbadin rests in an uneasy peace; new trading partners are hard to come by, and worshipers of the now-gone true gods clash with new cults unsatisfied with the old ways. Food is strictly rationed which caused more than a few riots. The hill dwarves were forced to fend for themselves, having to train much more of their populace in fighting due to the many bandits and monsters roaming the surface world. The more liberal mountain dwarves of Kayolin allowed the Neidar to settle in their kingdom, which was difficult initially but over time won the respect of neighboring Solamnia with who they established trade networks with to alleviate the food and space shortages.

The dark dwarves, aka the evil dwarf clans, are under the thumb of tyrannical governments. In Thorbadin the Theiwar and Daegar have more power than ever upon the Council of Thanes: both seek to overthrow the ruling Hylar clan and claim the mountains for themselves. The Theiwar are united and have a veritable amount of wizards in their ranks, but the Daegar cities are lawless and full of gangs of the poor and private militias serving the rich who are the closest equivalent to justice.Trade embargoes imposed by the mountain dwarves have resulted in food shortages, forcing the Theiwar and Daegar to rely upon fungus crops with little success. The Zhakar, being truly alone, see more and more of their people go insane and are thus exiled, and their forges begun supplying weapons and armor to the neighboring Dragonarmies as a means of enriching their kingdom.

The gully dwarves live much as they did in prior Ages, but the large amount of abandoned territories and ruins spawned post-Cataclysm give them more places to live. Their lives are ones of survival, and no other races of Krynn enjoy their presence; in Thorbadin they are viewed more as vermin than fellow dwarves, while those living in the Dragon Empire or other places of evil end up as slaves. The dwarves of Kayolin, however, are a relative exception: the gully dwarves are tolerated as a laborer class of street sweepers and vermin hunters and are treated with courtesy and respect when others do have to interact with them.

Nice to see that Kayolin’s overall open-mindedness has paid off in spades.

Gnomes of Ansalon have always been a strange bunch. They moved on from the Cataclysm relatively unscathed; while many gnomes died it was accepted as the inevitability of life. Their island home is relatively isolated from Ansalon’s mainland, and they long used technology of dubious quality to make up for the loss of magic. In fact, many gnomes sought to journey out into the world to catalogue events and make sense of this new Age: their city-state of Mount Nevermind did much to transport food and medicine to their suffering human neighbors, earning them a strong friendship with their neighbors in Sancrist and Solamnia.

Kender never fail to have an upbeat outlook on life, but even so many couldn’t help but be saddened by the disappearance of the gods. The kender cities of Hylo and Kendermore in the continent’s west and east suffered from the Cataclysm, with Kendermore’s flooding forcing many to flee and be displaced as nomadic tribes. During the Empire of Istar they were declared an inherently evil race, which caused a rather unlikely alliance between goblin and kender in defending their communities from soldiers and bounty hunters. In modern times this legacy still lasts in Northern Ergoth, where humans, kender, and goblins have their own neighboring regions but live peacefully with each other.

Centaurs are much like elves in that they are isolationists and keep to themselves in forests, but they also live on the open plains. Although mostly good-aligned, the Kingpriest also declared them inherently evil and to be put to the sword, which made them distrustful of outsiders well into the Fourth Age. The increasing violence wrought from desperation by their neighbors made the normally-benevolent centaurs more aggressive and warlike as a result. Most of them settled in isolated regions of Ansalon in order to find long-term peace, although a few nomadic tribes became regular trading partners of equally-mobile humans in the Plains of Dust and the deserts of Khur.

Draconians are the youngest race in Krynn, artificial creations of the Dragonarmies made from the corruption of good dragon eggs. Born and raised to be soldiers, draconians are brainwashed into a life of war and forced to fight each other for scraps of food by their human pseudo-parents during childhood. Although they are physically stronger and in some cases more magically talented than their human counterparts, Dragonarmy officers maintain reproductive control over their population by only hatching male dragon eggs and keeping secret the origins of their species.

Each subrace of draconian is based on their true dragon parentage, and have different inherent abilities which often determines their roles and duty in the Dragonarmies. The Baaz (brass) form the largest number of draconians and are regarded as expendable infantry; they have a rivalry with the kapaks artificially generated by officers who pit them against each other during training, which is another measure the military uses to prevent possible draconian uprisings. Kapaks (copper) are the second-most populous subrace and are often scouts and assassins due to their knack at remaining quiet and inherently-poisonous saliva glands. The women’s saliva can heal, but this is not known yet. Bozaks (bronze) have natural arcane spellcasting capabilities as a result of their draconic ancestry, but are taught that their powers come from Takhisis and often act as leaders and magical support to baaz and kapak units; this upbringing makes them quite zealous and arrogant.

Sivaks (silver) are the largest subrace of draconians with the ability to take the shape of those they murder, making them both expert spies and elite soldiers and bodyguards. They are the least likely draconians to defect, as they are more able to blend in among and thus get along with the human soldiers while also preferring action and battle to the relative sedentary life of administration in the upper ranks. Finally, the auraks (gold) can also take alternate physical forms but have powerful innate arcane magic. As a result, they are never in the front lines and used as part of special teams or as diplomats and spies. They’re the subrace which has cottoned on to the fact that their spells are not the result of Takhisis’ divine providence, and ironically have the highest rates of defection.

There are five more subraces of noble draconians, who are created from chromatic dragon eggs. But they won’t be created until the final months of the War of the Lance in desperation. Although the ‘metallic’ draconians do not inherently gravitate to evil, noble draconians are invariably good-aligned due to the gods imposing a sense of ‘cosmic balance.’ Said draconians end up defecting or get executed when it becomes clear that working for the Dragonarmies violates their principles.

Classes in the Age of Despair

Dragonlance has been a setting closely wedded to Dungeons & Dragons as a ruleset, and the Fifth Age/Age of Mortals were congruent to the switching of systems to 2nd Edition AD&D and SAGA. With the Cataclysm and return of the true gods being a big thing in the original adventures, certain D20 classes have to be revised or excised to remain authentic to pre-5th Age eras.

Overall the Age of Despair is at a point when magic on Ansalon is both the least common and trusted among the populace. The departure of the gods more or less made all divine casters disappear, with heathen priests and charlatans filling the void with either arcane magic* masquerading as miracles or using sleight of hand and other means of psychological trickery. Takhisis was the first to violate her pantheons’ retreat, and evil clerics among the Dragonarmies would openly cast spells during their new empire’s founding. It would not be until after Goldmoon’s** epiphany and discovery of the Discs of Mishakal that clerics of good and neutral deities would start appearing in Krynn once again. While people could still take levels in Cleric, Druid, etc the supernatural aspects of their class would remain untapped until they turn to worship of the true gods and gain their Medallions of Faith. It was common for people with noncasting Cleric or Druid levels to represent a heathen (false) priest who coasted on by with knowledge, charisma, and/or mundane alchemy and herbalism.

*the Wizards of High Sorcery hated such people, as they were most often renegades and when discovered inflamed anti-wizard sentiment. The Orders had their own division of “miracle-busters” dedicated to exposing such frauds during the Age of Despair.

**or the Prophet PC stand-in if playing your own heroes during the 3rd Edition Chronicles.

Speaking of which, wizards are the only form of arcane casters among non-draconian mortals, with sorcery and spontaneous casting solely the gift of dragons, fey, and the like. And even with wizards the Tower of Wayreth is their only true last bastion. Most are either lone travelers or teachers and apprentices not always welcome in many communities. Sorcerers, mystics, and spontaneous casters wouldn’t come into existence until long after the War of the Lance when the Graygem is broken and lets Chaos into the world.

The noncasting classes more or less exist without alteration, although monks are usually isolated philosophers in monasteries. As to who or what powers their supernatural abilities, the book doesn’t say. Speaking of which…

The Master is a new skill-centric core class meant to represent exceptional craftsmen, sages, and bards of the non-magical variety. They are explicitly meant to be to the Expert NPC class what the Warrior is to Fighters in 3rd Edition parlance. And as you can imagine it’s a pretty weak class: it has the same proficiencies/hit dice/skill points as the Rogue but lacks said class’ offensive and utility features and more exotic weapon choices like the rapier. Its major class feature is its Primary Focus, where you choose either Craftsman/Performer/Professional/Sage which corresponds with one of the four multi-skill specialties. Said Focus determines which skills are class skills and also what types of Knacks you can choose.

A Knack is a special ability you can take every couple of levels which corresponds to your Focus. Each Focus has a Knack where they treat a primary Craft/Perform/etc skill as granting half its ranks as “shadow ranks” to all other skills in said group (10 ranks in Knowledge-Arcana can give you 5 ranks in all other Knowledge) plus a Knack to make more money when using weekly/daily checks of your Focus’ skills.

The Craftsmen can build Items of Renown, which are “half-magical” items which are just really expertly made: weapons grant bonuses on attack (but not damage), armor reduces armor check penalties (but no AC bonus), but perhaps the best feature is raising the bonus on skill checks for appropriate tools (usually +2 with masterwork) to as high as +10!

Performer knacks are less powerful versions of bardic music, and are basically inspirational buffs and debuffs to various rolls.

Professional, oddly, has two sweet-talker Knacks: one where you gain bonuses on skill checks involving deception and falsehoods, and another where throw a person off-balance with bluster as a minor debuff (-1 on attack/skills/saves per time the Knack’s taken), but most of them are rather meager non-combat downtime things like “get Leadership followers but only for your profession.”

Sage Knacks have options like being able to learn new languages upon first encounter, gaining the equivalent of bardic knowledge, substituting Knowledge for Charisma-based skills when among scholarly types, and two “exploit enemy weakness” knacks where one lets you add your Intelligence bonus on attack rolls and the other grants +2 on attack rolls when making a successful Knowledge check to recognize a creature or character.

The only other things the Master has going for it are +2/+2 to two skills as potential bonus feats, gaining access to Knacks from a second Focus at 7th level, and can gain Skill Mastery as per a Rogue at 10th level.

For Prestige Classes we have both new ones and revisions to existing classes. Due to the loss of divine magic the 3 Knights of Solamnia PrCs from the corebook get revised: the Knight of the Sword no longer requires or uses spellcasting, and the same applies for Knights of the Rose (but Swords can still detect and smite evil!). They also have the option of trading in levels of one PrC when they get promoted to a higher order. It wouldn’t be until Knightly Orders of Ansalon that the Prestige Classes were made self-contained with easier prerequisites, aka no needing Crown levels before Sword, Sword before Rose. Before then pretty much all of your class and feat options were pre-determined if you wanted to eventually be a Knight of the Rose.

Chorister is a cleric who honors their god through holy (or unholy) music and dances. While they can represent any deity, some gods have philosophers more suited to it than others. It’s a half-casting progression which grants access to spells from the bard list as one gains levels in the class. The other major feature are “church choir” equivalents of bardic music which includes things like the ability to apply metamagic feats to divine spells after several rounds of chanting or listeners using the chorister’s Perform result in place of a saving throw vs divine magic.

Overall it’s got some pretty cool features, although its “+1 caster level every other level” may be a turn-off to some primary casters.

Dragon Highlord represents the leaders of the five respective Dragonarmies (and also Emperor Ariakas), those pledged to Takhisis in service of conquering the world! They are a short 3-level class and center around battlefield morale. They extend the duration of demoralization penalties on Intimidate checks, grant bonuses on attack/damage/Will saves equal to their level to non-good humanoid, giant, and dragon type creatures serving under them, and apply their Charisma bonus on all saving throws and Improved Resist Dragonfear* feat for free.

*+8 bonus on Will saves vs a dragon’s Frightful Presence.

The morale bonuses to enemy minions is pretty good, and as most statted Dragon Highlords in the 3rd Edition Chronicles have all 3 levels and rarely fight by themselves this will definitely see use. You have to be evil alignment and high-ranking in the Dragonarmies, so this isn’t a Prestige Class most PCs will have.

A Gnomish Tinker is the pinnacle of gnomish drive and ingenuity, a master craftsman who can assemble non-magical gadgets out of the most disparate parts. They are a pretty easy class to enter, with the main barrier an appropriately gnomish role-playing one:


Approval of the Chief Review Sub-Committee of Engineers, Consultants, and Inventors by a six-tenths vote and a signed waiver lodged with the Registrar of Contributing Administrative Functionaries and Governors.

They carry a unique toolbelt which holds tool points they use to fuel their class features. The Kitbash class feature can either take apart an item or trap to convert to tool points, or coax greater performance by giving an object an enhancement bonus on relevant attack/saves/skill/DCs up to half their class level by spending tool points. They can also create MacGuffins, devices which can replace a 0 to 2nd level wizard spell, but only a limited number of times per day and such devices are considered non-magical. The rest of their class features are hohum, like skill-centric bonus feats, increased bonuses on aid another actions, and bonuses on Charisma skills when interacting with gnomes among other minor things.

The Tinker isn’t going to replace the party wizard anytime soon, but the bonuses for kitbashing can be a useful long-term buff (lasts for 1 hour per Intelligence bonus). They don’t really have much offensive or utility features beyond this, which limits their attractiveness for PCs.

A Handler is the kender cultural equivalent of a thief. You see, kender detest deliberate robbery, but holding onto an item due to curiosity and amassing such trinkets over time is regarded as socially acceptable because this is not done out of greed or the intentional desire to deprive someone of something. They are international celebrities in kender communities, for they have many interesting stories to tell from their travels.

The Handler is heavily rogue-focused in both class features and prerequisites, but more defensive and “straight thief” in utility. They gain bonuses on Sleight of Hand checks and new maneuvers such as being able to steal objects in combat without penalty, Kender Tales which function as bardic knowledge, adding their Charisma on saving throws which represents incredible luck, and more straightforward rogue class features such as Defensive Roll and Improved Evasion.

This may sound like an appealing class for “disarming” opponents of valuable items in the middle of battle, but the Handler has absolutely no offensive features or even a sneak attack progression, which heavily hurts it for a Rogue Prestige Class.

Minotaur Marauder is our final entry for this section, representing wild card sailors among their race who owe allegiance only to themselves and their crew. They are hunted by their brethren loyal to the empire as well as other sailors who are often the target of their depredations. They are a 5-level class, where they gain a pithy sneak attack equivalent (dirty strike) which caps out at 2d4 damage and is limited to one use per target per day; +2 to +4 bonus on confirming critical hits; a poor man’s Intimidate called Bull’s Wrath which imposes a -1 on attacks and saves on a successful DC 25 Intimidate check (demoralization from Intimidate is -2 and can stack as Bull’s Wrath is an untyped bonus); and Opportunist, which lets them make one attack of opportunity against a target who is hit in melee by someone else.

This is an underpowered class, and its features across five levels don’t stack up to other features which you can better get through straight Rogue and such. It’s actually meant to key off of the Mariner class which I reviewed in Legends of the Twins, a similarly-weak core class.

New Feats

The overwhelming majority of feats have been reprinted from the Dragonlance Campaign Setting. A few are new but have been covered in my Legends of the Twins review. I’ll cover a few of the more interesting ones both unique to this sourcebook and which featured in others:

Alternate Form can be taken by a true dragon of at least adult age category. It lets them assume a single specific alternate form of humanoid or animal type of indefinite duration but can shapeshift in such a manner only once per day. Fun fact: the silver dragon D’Argent had this feat in the 3rd Edition update of the Chronicles, taking the form of a random NPC instead of mind-swapping with them via the magic jar spell which she did in AD&D. Correction: all silver dragons in 3e can assume such forms automatically but 3/day; this is more to give all of the other dragon clans the ability.

Astrological Forecasting is a rather situational one, where you can read someone’s horoscope once per week and give them a spendable +1 to +3 bonus on a single check any time during the next 7 days. The concept is cool, but the piddly bonus and infrequent rate blunt its use.

Create Draconian is a spell that lets you spawn baby draconians from dragon eggs. The following chapter has more rules on this, but overall you need one other spellcaster of another discipline (arcane if you’re divine and vice versa), and if the ritual is interrupted you and the other caster take Constitution damage.

Heroic Surge was a reprint from the base setting, but grants you a per-day use of one bonus move or standard action per round to be performed at any time during your regular actions. Said feat was very popular among gaming groups for letting martials make full attacks while moving more than 5 feet.

Improvise Masterwork Item lets you temporarily treat a non-masterwork item as such with 10 minutes of work. It can be recognized as temporary by others via the appropriate Craft or Appraise skill, so don’t think of trying to use it to make easy money.

Improved Taunt improves the kender taunt racial ability. The base taunt is a Bluff check vs the target’s Sense Motive, and if the target fails they take a -1 on all attacks and Armor Class. This feat increases the penalties to -2.

Spellcasting Prodigy treats a spellcaster’s primary casting stat as 2 points higher for the purpose of determining bonus spells per day. It can only be taken at 1st level.

Thoughts So Far: The looming legacy of the Cataclysm is a unifying factor among Ansalonian civilization, and the first chapter gives a detailed view on what kind of setting you’re getting with the War of the Lance. Things are bad all over, and most of the civilizations are on poor terms or too busy dealing with their own things which makes them ripe pickings for the invading Dragonarmies. There’s a lot of problems, providing for a good setting in which to adventure.

However, the class options aren’t exactly appealing for PCs. The Master class is underpowered, with only the Chorister being an attractive choice. Dragon Highlord is good, but not really suitable unless you’re doing a very offbeat Dragonlance campaign. The few feats which I can say are truly new to this book, Alternate Form and Create Draconians, are more for NPCs to take than PCs.

Join us next time as we learn of the power of the moons and gods in Chapter Two: Magic of Krynn!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 22:11 on Jan 1, 2020

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply