The Dragonlace saga continues!
The refugees from Pax Tharkas are safe in the dwarven kingdom of Thorbardin. You are in the ancient port of Tarsis searching for ships to bear them out of the dragonarmy's reach.
But nothing in silent Tarsis is as you expected. The sea receded in the Cataclysm; no ship will ever set sail from Tarsis again. Draconians openly roam the deserted city streets. A new quest is before you: to find one of the legendary Dragon Orbs, mighty weapons that destroyed the dragons in ancient times.
Your path leads you to Icewall Castle, abode of an awesome white dragon and her minions. What awaits on the treacherous glacier? Can you defeat the evil guardians of the castle and recover the Orb of the Silver Dragon?
"Dragons of Ice" is the fifth Dragonlance adventure for use with the AD&D game system and begins the Second Book of the Dragonlance saga. You can play this adventure by itself, or as part of the grand quest that spans the entire Dragonlancestory.
An adventure for characters level 6-9 Written by Douglas Niles
DL6: "Dragons of Ice" (1985), by Douglas Niles, is the sixth in the Dragonlance Chronicles series of adventures. It was published in May 1985.
Continuing the "DL" Series. "Dragons of Ice" opens the second book of the Dragonlance adventures, which would run from DL6 through DL9. Like its predecessors, it's an epic, story-based adventure focused on dragons and set in the world of Krynn.
Dragon of the Month. Each of the Dragonlance adventures concentrated on one type of dragon. In "Dragons of Ice" that's (unsurprisingly) a white dragon: Sleet. The use of Sleet is a close mirror to the use of the black dragon Onyx in DL1: "Dragons of Despair" (1984). In both cases the dragon is a one-time foe who is important to the adventure, but not one of the core forces attacking the cities of Krynn.
Adventuring Tropes. "Dragons of Ice" features the three core environments from early D&D adventures. There's the urban area of Tarsis; an expansive (but mostly empty) wilderness; and a small dungeon under Icewall Castle.
However, "Dragons of Ice" also includes the sort of event-driven, plot-heavy adventuring that was used throughout the Dragonlance adventures — but which was otherwise largely unknown in the '80s. It begins with a "cut-scene" moving the players from the dwarven mines of DL4: "Dragons of Desolation" (1984) to the city of Tarsis. After that, over 20 events advance the plot, as players are assaulted in Tarsis and from there travel to The Ice Reaches, Icewall Castle, and (eventually) Icemountain Bay.
Don't Split the Party! Back in DL1: "Dragons of Despair", TSR did something very unusual: they introduced a set of pregenerated characters called the Companions and heavily suggested that players take on these roles. Here in DL6: "Dragons of Ice", TSR did something just as unexpected: they split up the original group of adventurers; half of them would be used in DL6-DL9, while the others would instead continue their story in DL10: "Dragons of Dreams" (1985). New characters filled in the gaps, to still allow 7-8 players to play in each adventure.
Splitting the party up in this way was very unexpected, but gave the Dragonlance adventures a new vitality, as new characters entered the narrative, offering different perspectives and new opportunities for roleplaying.
The Novel Connection. Somewhat surprisingly, not much of "Dragons of Ice" made it into Dragons of Winter Night (1985), the second novelistic adaptation of the Dragonlance adventures. The novel does focus on the events in Tarsis, when the PCs are split up. However, when one group of PCs move on to the Ice Reaches, where most of "Dragons of Ice" takes place, Dragons of Winter Night synopsizes things in a two page poem(!). From there, the novel moves quickly on to the flight from the Ice Reaches and a final confrontation with the dragon Sleet.
Authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman filled in this gap many years later with the publication of Dragons of the Highlord Skies (2007), the second of the "Lost Chronicles". This newer novel contains almost three hundred pages directly derived from "Dragons of Ice", including a different perspective of the events in Tarsis, adventures on the Ice Reaches, and the exploration of Icewall Castle. Dragons of the Highlord Skies also contains some serious retcons of the events, suggesting that the whole adventure was a purposeful setup by Takhisis, who was trying to corrupt the knights of Solomania by luring them into "stealing" a dragon orb.
The Battlesystem Connection. TSR released Battlesystem (1985), its new mass-combat system, just a few months before the publication of "Dragons of Ice". It was a natural fit for the world of Krynn, as the Dragonlance Chronicles told an epic story of warfare in the world of Krynn.
"Dragons of Ice" was the first adventure to take advantage of Battlesystem, suggesting it as an alternate way to play the "Battle of the Ice Reaches". The integration is minimal and would be improved with future Dragonlance adventures.
Expanding Krynn. The first four Dragonlance adventures had moved ever further south as they explored Abanasinia, from Xak Tsaroth to Qualinesti and Thorbardin. "Dragons of Ice" journeyed beyond these lands by heading even further south. It touches upon the remaining lands of southwest Ansalon, including the city of Tarsis, the Ice Reaches, and Icewall Castle.
"Dragons of Ice" is also the adventure that made the Cataclysm real. Previous adventures had talked about this long-ago disaster that had changed the shape of Krynn, but in "Dragons of Ice" the players encounter the city of Tarsis … once a port, but now far away from the sea.
Monsters of Note. The Thanoi are introduced in "Dragons of Ice". They're walrus-people — one of many animalistic humanoid races created by Jeff Grubb over the years.
Future History. Author Niles has returned to the Ice Reaches many times over the years in his fiction. One of the most interesting is Niles' short story "Icewall" from The Dragons of Chaos (1997), which is partially set in Icewall Castle, back when it was Summerbane Castle, before the Cataclysm. Niles also wrote the Icewall trilogy of novels (2001-2003).
About the Creators. Niles had been writing plot-driven adventures since before they were cool, starting as early as N1: "Cult of the Reptile God" (1982). Unsurprisingly, he was a member of the Dragonlance team from the start and had previously written DL2: "Dragons of Flame" (1984). More recently he was also the author of Battlesystem (1985). 1985 was Niles' busiest year ever for TSR, resulting in eight different adventures, books, and boxes.
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