Monday 17 July 2023

Dragons of Despair. The end


So last week we finished playing Tracy Hickman's Dragons of Despair, the adventure that started Dragonlance

And before talking about the fun we had, I'll nitpick a little more. 


Alignment and colours and stuff... 

And some earlier nitpicking...  

So, here we go. 

Personally, I had some trouble with the formatting. Maybe it was just the way TSR did it back in the day, but I had to spend precious minutes trying to find where do the characters end up after they jump into the big iron pot that brings them down, and also the stats for the ancient black dragon that they face in the end. Both are kind of important - you need to tell the players where their characters are and what they can do there, and you need to be able to describe how the dragon is about to destroy them. 

Then there's stuff like this. 

 All nice and well until you check out the description of the crystal staff itself. 


Goldmoon has a really peculiar way of folding her clothes if a 5 feet long stick can just fall out of a fold. When my players asked me how did it happen, and how did the staff fit into a fold of her robe in the first place, I was unable to provide an answer. 

Then there are little moments like this one. 

It's a fun situation and we enjoyed playing it out, but then the players said "Okay, this is the treasury, what sort of treasure is there?" 

And there's absolutely nothing in the room description about that. Only the hungover draconian officer and the gully dwarves with wooden spears and oversized helmets. 

You don't call the room a "treasury" and then skip on the treasure, mister Hickman. That's not something the players forgive. 

Despite all that, we had fun. 

The adventure, strangely enough, ended pretty much the way it was intended. One of the unexpected heroes destroyed the dragon, the crystal staff, and seemingly himself and the Disks of Mishakal, but was rescued by the grace of gods. Now the party has a grumpy, highly sceptical dwarven cleric. I still don't know who is his deity. 

And speaking of gods - the one problem I had to struggle with a lot was trying to make the gods look less like total bastards. If you know the Dragonlance lore, things happened like this: a powerful lawful good priest decided to destroy all evil on Krynn and called out to the gods to lend him the power to do that. And the gods dropped a fiery mountain on him, killing the priest, killing thousands of people, destroying cities, changing the climate, causing chaos and countless suffering. And all the true clerics disappear for hundreds of years.

Then, as the adventure unfolds, the gods tell the characters: "No, the gods didn't turn their back on you! You turned your back on us!" Uh, no, that's not what happened, you dropped the bloody asteroid on us. Why would we want to deal with you again? 

I never understood why it was supposed to be okay. The priest was channeling the gods' power. Why not just cut him off? 

Religion, eh. 

Anyhow, I changed this a lot - once again bringing in the Colours, having the gods explain that the priest tried to destroy all the Colours except for proud and noble White, and this is what caused the Cataclysm, despite the gods trying desperately to prevent it. Without Black, there would be no crafts, without Green - no healing, without Red - no passion. The Kingpriest's perfect world would be lifeless and pathetic, but he failed, because the sheer amount of White energy he gathered was too much for him to control, and the magical explosion destroyed the Kingpriest and changed the face of Krynn forever. The chaos brought to the Colours prevented the gods from making contact with the mortal races for many years to come. Which, in my opinion, makes more sense. 

I think the epic ending of the adventure is exactly how such things should happen.

"The huge black dragon screams as the light from the broken staff envelops her! She falls back, and you can feel her dark aura weaken and tear apart as she dies". 


"I tear a single scale off her body". 


"I pull the magic ring off her talon". 


"So I exploded? Wait, I was carrying the Disks! Did they explode with me?! Oh, man, we lost the Disks..." 

Next: Dragons of Flame.

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