Worst of the New School

The Dragonlance series of AD&D modules,
conceived by Tracy Hickman, has
now developed into something potentially
larger than any other linked venture
ever produced by TSR. The modules link
up with novels, figures, and a ple-
thora of marketing devices all designed
around the concept. Modules DL (already
reviewed here) to DL4 form the first stage
in a massive quest-adventure using
the same set of characters, which pre-
sumably will outsrtip even the famous
Giant-Drow series of modules produced by
Gary Gygax.
DL2, Dragons of Flame continues the story
from DL1. And this is the main idea behind
the Dragonlance series: the characters are
telling and reliving a story through pre-
determined characters. There are various
rules changes and hints for GMs to show them
how to run this style of adventure (information
whcih is somewhat redundantly repeated in
every module), and anyone thinking of run-
ning the whole of the Dragonlance Saga
should bear in mind the potentially con-
fining feeling that is part and parcel
of this series. The players will have to
adapt to fit the characters rather than the
other way round, and will have some
challenging moments, but the authors
have tried to develop the characters in a
realistic manner. It is debatable how
close this is to the original concept of
role-playing:
in some ways the characters
in DragonLance are simply acting
out roles cast by the background and the
novels etc; but there should be sufficient
room for alternative ways of playing.
GMs should recognise that there are two
ways of looking at the adventures. They
may be used by inexperienced players
to get involved and experienced in the
game (despite the fact that it is somewhat
non-standard AD&D), or they represent
a detailed world for players of
long-standing to immerse themselves in.
Eitherway I think that the modules are
good enough to provide plenty of thrills
once players are more settled into their
roles. In Dragons of Flame the brave
Innfellows suffer at the hand of the
Draconians and must find some aid in
the beleaguered North Lands before setting
off to rescue an enslaved population.
I must not tell you too much of the
plot, but for your money you get around
24 pages of text, an area map and
3 detailed location maps, along with
plenty of good art. You also get some
repeated information – I don’t really see
that this is necessary as people are
unlikely to buy an odd scenario from the
middle of a series as big as this one-and
some odd ‚extras‘, such as a song and a
poem. These are supposed to be inspirational
l imagine, but l doubt that anyone
will want to use them. The adventure is
very channelled
and whilst providing
the players with plenty to contend with,
does not want them straying off the path
the designers envisage
. However honest
their intentions, the players are
treated as idiots
if they do anything but
the stated actions and though this may
be a useful trick for less experienced
players, it is extremely frustrating when
DMing and players come up with a
potentially intelligent suggestion or plan
only to have to shoot it down because it
‚doesn’t fit the story‘. I feel that there
should have been more options for
players to choose between.
DL3, Dragons of Hope marked an
improvement in the design and we
enjoyed this one more. You get a huge
map and a smaller version for the DM,
plus 2 detailed area maps and the usual
art from Keith Parkinson. There is a lot
more for the players to contend with
here, rather than just bands of marauding
Draconians and other attendant nasties.
However, much of the action turns
on uncontrollable plot devices, with
many poorly explained or of dubious
value as contributions to the game.
Other minor criticisms we had whilst
playing were the rather ambiguous
detailed area maps and events thatwere
somewhat coerced and did not flow
naturally from play -these tended to
stick out like sore thumbs amid the generally
very high quality of this scenario.
Fortunately there are very few ‚bugs‘ as
such, and DMs can of course leave out
anything that they find anomalous. We
particularly liked the free-ranging nature
of the scenario ratherthan the usual confinement
of dungeon pathways.
DL4, Dragons of Desolation is perhaps
one of the most innovative scenarios that
TSR have recently produced (however,
TSR UK have been a lot more forward thinking
in their ideas of late than their
parent company). The scenario is very
taxing on DMs, as they have a lot to keep
track of. There is plenty of reward
though if the scenario can be well-run,
with some very interesting encounters
and a mapping system that I’m sure I’ll
want to use elsewhere. Overall I was
impressed with the design, and this
scenario has the most actual text of all
four. However,one of the most intriguing
aspects of the scenario is that the main
part of the action (a tomb) is essentially
not run by the DM at all! In fact, both
players and DM are caught up by the
action at many points in the adventure
and can do no more than take a backseat
as the story unfolds. Whilst ‚dominating‘
players might find this a trifle annoying,
it is in fact a good opportunity to forget
the gaming aspects and concentrate on
role-playing. It is a shame that players
could not have developed their own
characters for the quest, but those provided
by now will be familiar enough.
Overall there is plenty of information
contained in the modules for DMs to
grasp the basic background of Krynn.
The scenarios are well worth the money
and if you’ve already finished off some
of the better modules around (like the I
series and the new UK ones), then take a
deep breath and plunge into the world of
Krynn.

–Graham Staplehurst, White Dwarf No. 67

2 Gedanken zu „Worst of the New School

  1. New old school … I get a bit confused here. ’85 my ass, running in circles since 25 years …And: Yes. Idiots, thats nice.

  2. now we do history of reception of game material instead of looking at the game material itself?

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