Dragonlance & In Search of Dragons

The first 2e product of the year, wasn’t the PHB, but a module . . . this module, Product 9243, or DLE1 In Search of Dragons written by Rick Swan for the Dragonlance Champaign Setting.

The first modules for 2e are pretty easy to spot; they have a starburst on the cover that says that they are compatible with both first and second edition, however, this is the only module that was published with no 2e rules to support it, but that doesn’t matter because DLE1 provided everything that you needed to play it, all you needed was the original DMG and a 1e PHB. Once the new PHB came out, you could use it too, but it was completely independent from the Dragonlance boxset as all of the background history was in the module itself.

Why Dragonlance? Forgotten Realms was chosen to be THE world to host 2nd Edition; that was supposed to be the intention anyway. No other company had ever changed the rules on its users before, and the folks at TSR knew that there would be deaths as some classes were being cut to appease Mom. It also wasn’t known how far Dave Cook would push the new rules, but it was decided by management that all of the campaign settings would all, in theory, have to be rebooted. They didn’t know if 1e users would buy into the new system, they made it as attractive as they could by cutting down on the books needed to play, but if the 1ers did buy in, would they update their characters or simply start new ones? That really wasn’t up to TSR to decide, but they did try to help with some products which would ease tables into the 2e era.

I’ve talked about the 2e module style, which is story heavy. Today we’ve gone back to the original Gygax methods, but the Gygax method doesn’t make money. TSR’s new head, Lorraine Williams knew that table top gamers were also readers, so she expanded the TSR line beyond just modules and gaming guides, and began to publish novels, and the Modules either supported or tied into the novels.

Today you see people putting down the story style of play, a cooperative story telling game isn’t role-playing, they say. Well, they are wrong. You can play any way that you want to, and at the time players enjoyed this style of play. 2e supported it, and from a marketing standpoint, TSR made a lot more money! People who didn’t play Dungeons & Dragons saw the Dragonlance novels, and they bought them. The modules allowed the players to play as the characters in the books, which was a concept that is rather unique to Dragonlance.

The story style first appeared in 1983 with a little module written by Laura and Tracy Hickman called Ravenloft, maybe you’ve heard of it? It was this husband and wife team who transformed the abstract and incomplete module form into a real working interactive story. Ravenloft’s success was a huge deal! So it was no wonder that Laura and Tracy were contracted to create a story driven setting, this setting being Dragonlance.

This formula was the basis of what 2e was meant to be. For better or for worse! It wasn’t Forgotten Realms that was the true spearhead, but Dragonlance!  And, it was Dragonlance that was already prepped and ready for 2e, the “War of the Lance” was over! A new age had dawned.

In Search of Dragons was the first of a three module series. The only thing that made this 2e was a brief explanation about movement, as the system had slightly changed and labels had been added to tell the DM if a different form of movement was used. Today we know that 2e added more than it took away, and one can always pull from 1st edition if they really want to, but TSR had to first prove itself. In a way, this module was kind of a gift. Imagine! A module that didn’t try to enforce the use of additional source material!  It didn’t care if you used 1st or 2nd edition, it was functional all by itself, which is cool.

I, myself, had never been formally introduced to Dragonlance. I’ve never played a game, nor have I read any of the books. Dragonlance was not my cup of tea, but it still important to the hobby. I do have a few modules that I had inherited from here or there, and while I love a good story, I to have adopted a more old-school style of play. I still have story elements in there! But instead of the players trying to survive the story, I like them to seek it out, and I definitely try to keep them the main characters!

DLE1 is intriguing, and I love how it is self-contained. Maybe if I’m ever strapped for ideas and someone wants to play a game, I’d run it, but I’m not really a module guy. I love it for its historic value. The first use of that beautiful blue and white 2nd Edition logo! I have no idea how to grade it, but some things don’t need to be judged, do they.


Unknown said...

I've read parts of the Dragon Lance novels, and I would hate to have a character play a pre-destined path/story - what would be the point? How forced were the modules/sessions then?
I have a few friends who just loves the books and characters and love for them to make camoes or be a straight up key NPC in their adventures, and I mentally roll my eyes and say "ough, this guy again".

Interesting read nonetheless from a historic/marketing point of view of the history of DnD.

RipperX said...

That is the crux of the issue right there, playing a per-determined game; personally, I think that it would be impossible. I don't even try to stick to timelines, as soon as your character makes its first action, then the reality at the table is all its own.

There are a few modules that take you back into ancient history, but lets face it; if we can't save Blackmoor, then what is the point? I guess that all nations are dying, and the whole world is going to hell anyway, but it's kind of like watching Titanic movies, we already know how it ends!

I have played a few 2e modules that were really really good! Yes they were story heavy, but the story was excellent! I kind of like the timed games, were the players have to race to figure out what is going on, and get ready before it really hits the fan! One of the hardest things a DM can do is to figure out exactly how powerful an NPC is, and what he can do to aid the party without taking over but at the same time, appearing to be an idiot. I think that 2e modules can show you this balance.

Brooser Bear said...

Never got into Dragons. It wasn't only D&D that got into Railroad style of linear play, Gary Gygax got into the Railroad game as well. It was a mixed current, though, and it started earlier, in AD&D 1st Edition. In 1988 Harold Johnson and Aaron Allston released the Dungeon Master's Design Kit, which broke away from the site based maps and keys into Screen-play style theatrical stage adventure design that featured Chases, Hooks, Climaxes, Denoument and a ton of forms, some borrowed from theater stage. I found this by accident, when he saw one of the Room/Encounter design forms and he exclaimed - We used to use these forms! I studied theater and the Stage Director used one just like this!

The in 1996 Richard Baker designed the World Builder's Guide for AD&D Second Edition, which harkened back to the old school world building and in 1998 Bruce R. Cordell published Dungeon Builder's Guidebook, which resurrected Dungeon Geomorphs, brought out some of the old Gygax's random dungeon design mechabics, and was one of the first to get into fantastic dungeons with lava walls, etc, that would nudge the game in the direction of the pencil and paper Diablo. Then in 2004, Gygax wrote the Indidiae, his adventure design book for hus Castles and Crusades and Lejendery Adventures D&D clones, and that book was written with the Railroad School of Adventure Writing in mind.

RipperX said...

Nice comment! I had ran into the Dungeon Master's Design Kit myself, and that thing is an overly complicated stack of papers which you don't need. It is aimed at a market of amateur writers, and it only serves to harm the users creative processes. It was a horrible product!

Brooser Bear said...

Not sure if that kit was intended for amateur writers. I been writing since I was 13. Never ran out of ideas and stories ran before my eyes. I think that's how it is for most people. You are right, this is a toxic product. Couldn't wrap my head around in when I first had it in 1991-1992, never finished it and hence I couldn't remember what was in it. This month I decided to actually read it and determine its usefulness. It was a torture. I kept hitting my forehead with my fist at the local Starbucks. This product seems to be designed to take a train of thought and cut it into little pieces. Don't know much about Aaron Allston, but I am starting to think that he was a malignant presence.

RipperX said...

I've got a few books on writing fiction, and the worst ones have stuff in them like the Design Kit did. I feel that it takes advantage of peoples insecurities. I know that designing adventures can be terrifying, but I feel that, like anything, practice makes perfect, not over thinking.

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