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Dragonlance Adventures (1e)
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Dragonlance Adventures (1e)

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At last, the complete Krynn source book that contains all the information necessary for limitless campaigning in the world of the DragonLance saga!

Provides all-new information on the character classes, races, artifacts, and powers that are unique to the fascinating world of Krynn.

Product History

Dragonlance Adventures (1987), by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, is the twelfth hardcover book for the first edition AD&D line. It was published in September 1987.

Continuing the AD&D Hardcovers. After ten rules supplements, Manual of the Planes (1987) was the first hardcover D&D book to move from crunch to fluff by detailing the setting of the Great Wheel. Dragonlance Adventures sort of continues that trend by detailing the world of Krynn, but it's much more a mixture of rules and setting than its predecessor — with its rules even highlighted in easy-to-find gray boxes, something that the authors noted as an innovation for the D&D line.

Because it contains so much crunch, Dragonlance Adventures is much more than just a fluffy setting book. In fact, it deserves to be acknowledged as the fifth and final core book of the AD&D 1.5e update, which included Unearthed Arcana (1985), Oriental Adventures (1985), Dungeoneer's Survival Guide (1986), and Wilderness Survival Guide (1986). Like all of the previous 1.5e books, Dragonlance Adventures dramatically updates and reimagines rules systems — some of which would soon reappear in AD&D 2e (1989). Like Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures it's also practically an alternate Player's Handbook, describing how D&D could be played in a very different setting.

Dragonlance Adventures doesn't get as much attention as the other 1.5e books in part because it was focused on the world of Krynn and in part because it appeared less than a year-and-a-half before the release of AD&D 2e. Nonetheless, it's as innovative as the earlier 1.5e books — and so a wonderful swan song for Tracy Hickman, who offered tremendous innovation to TSR during his short years there.

Continuing the Dragonlance Saga. Hickman's most innovative project for TSR was undoubtedly the 14-book Dragonlance campaign (1984-1986). However, this saga had ended in October 1986 with DL14: "Dragons of Triumph" (1986), and it wasn't obvious what would be next for the setting.

TSR answered that question with their 1987 release schedule. This included the semi-fiction Leaves from the Inn of the Last Home (1987), the fiction anthology Dragonlance Tales Volume 1; Magic of Krynn (1987), the hardcover Dragonlance Adventures (1987), and then a few months later the geographical Atlas of the Dragonlance World (1987). With these releases, TSR was clearly stated that they planed to develop both the fiction and the game of Dragonlance past the original story of its creators.

Farewell to Hickman & Weis. Unfortunately, those original authors were now on their way out the door, departing TSR to build on their fictional triumph in the wider world of book publishing. Dragonlance Adventures would be Weis and Hickman's last major work for the company for almost a decade — and in fact they were both gone by the time it was published. After leaving TSR, Weis and Hickman would publish many novels of their own, beginning with The Darksword Trilogy (1988), The Rose of the Prophet Trilogy (1988-1989), and The Death Gate Cycle (1990-1994).

Though Weis and Hickman's gaming work for TSR was largely done, they'd still return a few times to shore up the core Dragonlance fiction line. The first time would result in Dragons of Summer Flame (1995), a troubled novel that appeared in TSR's troubled final days.

Expanding D&D. Dragonlance Adventures is deserving of membership in the AD&D 1.5e club primarily for its extensive reimagination of D&D character classes.

  • Clerics are divided into good, neutral, and evil classes. More notably, each god grants its followers certain spheres of spells (and even certain specific abilities). This was the first of a few changes that would reappear in AD&D 2e.
  • Knights appear as a variant of Unearthed Arcana's cavalier class. However two of the knight classes, the Knights of the Sword and the Rose, require characters to first advance in the default Knight of the Crown class and also to meet other requirements. Thirteen years early, this was the first instance of prestige-like classes in D&D!
  • Tinkers are a special class created for the new tinker gnomes of Krynn. This new variant of gnomes would soon become the default vision of D&D gnomes, spreading out into space with the publication of Spelljammer (1989).
  • Wizards are also divided into good (white), neutral (red), and evil (black) variants. Slightly different spheres of magic are available to these different classes, another preview of AD&D 2e. (These Krynn-ish wizards also have one of D&D's most unique magical rules: they're affected by the phases of the moons!)

Dragonlance Adventures also features plenty of races including: three dwarf races, four elf races, half-elfs, minotaurs, irda (shapechanging good ogres), and of course tinker gnomes and kender. The minotaur and irda were appearing for use by D&D PCs for the first time! New non-weapon proficiencies also appear — something that was common in AD&D 1.5e books.

Finally, Dragonlance Adventures slightly adjusts D&D's take on alignment. Rather than using alignment as a limit on players' behavior, Dragonlance Adventures instead treats alignment as something that reflects players' behavior — and even includes a tracking chart so that the GM can note a player's changing character. The original Dungeon Master's Guide (1979) had included the option of forcing a character to change alignment, but the new approach was more nuanced.

Exploring Krynn. During Dragonlance's first three years of publication, background material appeared haphazardly. For example DL3: "Dragons of Hope" (1984) and DL4: "Dragons of Desolation" (1984) were effectively the dwarf sourcebooks because they focused on Thorbardin. Articles also occasionally appeared in Dragon, starting with "My Honor Is My Life" in Dragon #94 (February 1985) and "The Dragons of Krynn" in Dragon #98 (June 1985).

More comprehensive information on Krynn was scarce. DL5: "Dragons of Mystery" (1984) was a sourcebook, but with just 32 pages it only got to detail gods and mythology before it changed its focus to the Companions. The wargame DL11: "Dragons of Glory" (1986) offered some information on major battles of the War of the Lance, then DL14: "Dragons of Triumph" (1986) did its best to give the setting a good send-off by including a 32-page sourcebook that detailed the history of the setting, revealed Ansalon after the Dragonlance Saga, and compiled lists of creatures and treasures. Overall, information on the Dragonlance setting was a hodge-podge prior to the publication of Dragonlance Adventures. But in those days, adventures were the prime way to reveal setting information, so it was a very traditional hodge-podge.

Dragonlance Adventures spends its entire 128 page length on detailing Krynn. Most of this detail is crunch, including classes, races, creatures, and NPCs. It's a very different emphasis from TSR's other setting at the time, World of Greyhawk (1980, 1983), but possibly a more playable one because of the emphasis on playable mechanics, not just fluff.

Dragonlance Adventures also contains some background, revealing the gods of Krynn, reiterating the history of Krynn, and once more detailing Ansalon after the War. In fact, it even moves Krynn past Dragonlance Legends (1986) into 358 AC through its inclusion of Legends NPCs.

The thing most obviously missing from Dragonlance Legends is information on the geography of Krynn. TSR probably figured that the upcoming Atlas of the Dragonlance World would more than serve that need.

Exploring Krynn: Creating a Canon. Because Dragonlance Adventures represents the last Dragonlance gaming work by Weis and Hickman for TSR, the book is a pivotal point in the definition of Dragonlance's canon. Beforehand, Hickman and Weis were the ultimate authorities on the world, but afterward divers hands took over.

As a result, the next two adventures, DL15: "Mists of Krynn" (1988) and DL16: "World of Krynn" (1988), would both be on shaky grounds. Dragonlance's canon settled more in the AD&D 2e era (1989-2000), but a few different elements from Dragonlance Adventures would drop out of canon over the years. Most notably, big changes to the timeline appeared with Tales of the Lance (1992), because the timeline in Dragonlance Adventures missed some major things. Other changes were more controversial. One was an adjustment to the racial origins of the smaller folk of Krynn. According to Dragonlance Adventures, kender and gnomes evolved from cursed gnomes, but AD&D 2e sources changed that to gnomes and dwarves evolving from human smiths! An even bigger change occurred with the advent of the Dragonlance SAGA system (1996), which tripled the size of Ansalon!

Years later, Weis would come back into control of Dragonlance's canon when she licensed the setting through Sovereign Press. To date she's been the last word on the setting, and she's restored most of what's in this book, saying: "DL Adventures expressed the DL team's vision of the world, a vision we want to try to recreate with our work at Sovereign Press. I will state here, without apology, that DL Adventures will be taken as the foundation for all things Dragonlance with certain exceptions where applicable (such as the flawed time line)."

Monsters of Note. Dragonlance Adventures reprints many of the classic monsters of Krynn. They'd previously debuted in adventures and were reprinted in "Dragons of Triumph". These reappearing critters include draconians, ice bears, bloodsea minotaurs, spectral minions, thanoi, and many more.

About the Creators. Hickman was the originator of the ideas that became the Dragonlance Saga. He and Weis coauthored the six novels at the core of the saga, Dragonlance Chronicles (1984-1985) and Dragonlance Legends (1986). This was their last work on the setting until their return in the mid-90s to write Dragons of Summer Flame (1995), a single book that had been intended as another trilogy.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Discussions (4)
Customer avatar
Antonio E November 20, 2015 2:19 pm UTC
I have had this for as long as I have been playing...very interesting for the history of the setting (barring a few mistakes in the timeline) but the rules part is horrid...lots of typos, missing information, etc. don't make for a very good rules supplement.
Customer avatar
Matthew B October 30, 2015 1:47 pm UTC
Such a fantastic book...Brings back so many memories of being a teenager! This and MotP were undoubtedly my favorite 1e sourcebooks.
Customer avatar
Will B October 27, 2015 8:51 pm UTC
A fantastic review. I remember when this book was first released. However, I noticed a slight discrepancy with your history. You state that the Knights of the Crown and of the Sword were the first time we saw what would years later become prestige classes in 3rd Edition. However, prior to that the Unearthed Arcana introduced the Thief-Acrobat, which required you to first gain 5 levels in the Thief class, and previous to _that_ publication, the AD&D Players Handbook introduced the Bard class, which required you to first take levels as a Thief, then as a Fighter, before finally training as a Druid, at which point your character actually was granted the class of Bard.
Customer avatar
Andrew B October 27, 2015 8:26 pm UTC
PURCHASER
This was a beautiful book. Fantastic cover too. I used to read this over and over, although by the time I ran Dragonlance for the first time I was using the more comprehensive Tales of the Lance Boxed set and the 2nd Edition rules. This is the book that takes me back to the late eighties though when I was just dreaming of running D&D games - such nostalgia! Note that players of the SSI Gold Box Dragonlance computer games will recognise this rule-set as the one used for those games, oh and check out the credit for designer/writer Warren Spector (Deus Ex, System Shock, Ultima 6 & 7) as proofreader on the title page.
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on October 27, 2015.