DL3 2

DL8: Dragons of War (1985)

For me, DL8: Dragons of War is where the wheels really start to come off the original Dragonlance modules, but I don’t really see that as a bad thing. What the folks behind Dragonlance were trying to accomplish here was new ground for tabletop RPGs and the experiment was largely happening in real time, right in front of players. So the results are these weird mixes of interesting innovations and awkward messes. In retrospect, it is often easy to see how early decisions, like producing novels and modules concurrently, hamstrung later developments, but also forced the designers to push new ideas in order to make things work.

For instance, the first part of this module, which is essentially a choose-your-own-adventure that rapidly moves things along from the end of DL7 to the place DL8 really needs to start. This is a fantastic solution, a kind of zoom out with the camera, that is both satisfying in a narrative sense and expedient in a mechanical one.

I also like the idea that the dungeon portion, searching the High Clerist’s Tower for anything that will help in the coming siege is neat, and giving the PCs a couple months to explore is nice. Buuuuuut…

Then there’s the actual large scale battles managed using Battlesystem, a mass combat system TSR unsuccessfully pushed for like a decade without any real success. Battlesystem is optional, but the alternative provided reduces the battle to a single die role. It boggles my mind that no one thought to come up with a way to roleplay it out, with PC combat results contributing to the overall tide of the battle. Battlefield as dungeon. You know, the way it works in the book.

Also, the big thing that happens in the battle in the book? The spoiler? That is right there on the cover? It doesn’t happen here. I could swear it did, but I have gone through this thing three times and can’t find mention of it and the key character is playable in the next module, so. I get that being on that train would kind of suck, but on the other hand, the lack of that death kind of tears the emotional heart out of the proceedings?  

Oh, historical note: this is the first time we get Lord Soth’s stats, tho he doesn’t really play a part in the adventure. Also: sheet music.

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