The Tower of the High Clerist pierces the cold sky. The chill wind blows snowy swirls across Solamnic Knights huddled on the battlements. This is their last stand.
Behind the pass they guard sits the gleaming city of Palanthus. The war will be lost if the city falls to the Dragonarmy.
All eyes strain south across the rolling plains of Solamnia. The Knights hear the distant thunder of a vast horde on the march. An enemy line more than a thousand strong is sighted moving toward the tower.
The Knights glance from side to side. Divided by politics and their strict code of honor, the Knights can only withstand the coming assault if they unite against the common enemy.
"Dragons of War" is the eighth in the series of Dragonlance adventures for use with the AD&D game. Included are optional AD&D Battlesystem miniature rules. You can play this adventure by itself or as part of the grand quest that spans the entire Dragonlancesaga.
An adventure for characters level 8-10
DL8: "Dragons of War" (1985), by Tracy and Laura Hickman, is the eighth in the Dragonlance Chronicles series of adventures. It was published in July 1985.
Continuing the "DL" Series. "Dragons of War" continues the second book of the Dragonlance Saga, again focusing on the adventures of the Companions who went south when they were split up in Tarsis in DL6: "Dragons of Ice" (1985).
However, "Dragons of War" was different from its predecessors in one way: where the earlier adventures had all been 32 pages long, this one featured a 32-page main adventure book and an 8-page Battlesystem book. From here on, all of the adventures would be at least 40 pages long, reflecting the increasing depth of the adventures (and perhaps their success as well).
Dragon of the Month. Each of the Dragonlance adventures spotlighted one of the 12 types of dragons. The cover reveals that "Dragons of War" is the blue dragon adventure. There aren't any individual blue dragons lounging around the dungeons, but the Blue Dragon Wing, and their leader the Blue Lady, are a big part of this adventure. In total, six different blue dragons are statted up in the heroes & commanders section of the adventure.
More generally, blue dragons were a major force in the second book of Dragonlance — replacing Lord Verminaard's Red Dragon Wing, which was the major force of the first book. Their importance is reflected in the original cover of Dragons of Winter Night (1985), which has a blue frame. The color blue also references the "Winter Night" that has descended on Krynn.
Adventure Tropes. Tracy Hickman was probably the Dragonlance author who most aggressively sought out new ways to mix storytelling with RPG adventuring. This was appropriate because it's his "manifesto" that required "an intriguing story that is intricately woven into the play itself".
In "Dragons of War" the Hickmans experiment with a choose-your-own-adventure format in the first chapter. Each encounter is an "interactive narrative" that ends with a "Cast Your Fate!" section that allows players to go in different directions based on their decisions. Meanwhile, a clock is constantly ticking. The result was very innovative.
The second chapter of "Dragons of War" more typically mixes time-based events with location-based encounters, while the third chapter is a dungeon crawl. These methodologies for creating a storytelling adventure would become much more common during the AD&D 2e period (1989-2000), but of course "Dragons of War" preceded that by several years.
Mapping Tropes. The Tower of the High Clerist is revealed through a beautiful, isomorphic poster map that clearly shows the interconnections within the 3-D structure. It's the sort of map that Hickman loved to use in his adventures, but was rarely seen elsewhere.
The Novel Connection. By the time the Hickmans began work on "Dragons of War", Margaret Weis and Tracy had gotten out in the lead with their work on the associated novel, Dragons of Winter Night (1985). As a result, the novel isn't nearly as parallel to the adventure as was the case with DL1, DL2, and (to a lesser extent) DL6.
Some of the events of "Dragons of War" appear in Book 3 of Dragons of Winter Night, but it focuses on just a few of the encounters that would eventually appear in the adventure — including the politicking at the Council of Whitestone, an investigation of Mount Nevermind, and of course the defense of the High Clerist Tower itself. There's very little attention given in the novel to the exploration of the High Clerist Tower, which is the major dungeon crawl in "Dragons of War".
The Battlesystem Connection. "Dragons of War" is true to its name. For the first time ever, the war to control Krynn really comes center stage. A map of Western Ansalon even shows the major thrusts and parries in the strategic campaign.
"Dragons of War" was able to depict the war thanks in part to AD&D's new Battlesystem (1985) mass-combat system. It had been used minimally in DL6: "Dragons of Ice" (1985), but "Dragons of War" was the first adventure to put the system front-and-center. Though a simplified alternate combat system is offered, TSR was clearly trying to encourage players to use Battlesystem to fight the major battle for the High Clerist Tower that ends the adventure. It was one of TSR's many attempts to make Battlesystem successful in the '80s and '90s.
The adventure also contains rules for depicting sieges, which was a notable expansion for the Battlesystem rules.
Expanding Krynn. The knights of Solamnia had appeared throughout the Dragonlance adventures and had received some additional details in "'My Honor is My Life'", an article written by Tracy Hickman for Dragon #94 (February 1985). "Dragons of War" revised and expanded the latter material, making it the de facto sourcebook for the knights.
The adventure also continues the series' exploration of the realms of Krynn by touching upon many of the lands of Solamnia for the first time ever. This included a look at Mount Nevermind; though only a page, it provided a bit of details on Krynn's tinker gnomes.
NPCs of Note. One of Dragonlance's best-known characters is introduced in "Dragons of War": the death knight Lord Soth. Death knights had premiered back in Fiend Folio (1981), the creation of future author Charles Stross. Now, they were getting their first major appearance in a D&D module, thanks to iconic representative, Lord Soth.
Sort of. Soth gets a full write-up as one of the evil leaders of the war, but he doesn't play a major role in the adventure.
About the Creators. Tracy Hickman was the creator of Dragonlance, while Laura Hickman was his regular writing partner. This was Hickman's first Dragonlance adventure since his coauthorship of DL4: "Dragons of Desolation" (1984).
About the Product Historian
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