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Heroes of Steel (SAGA)
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Heroes of Steel (SAGA)

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Join the Warriors of Ansalon!

In the perilous dawn of the Fifth Age, power - and survival - often depends on a hero's sharp sword and stout shield, wielded with determination and skill.

Heroes of Steel introduces you to these figures of strength and courage, offering hints for playing warriors and an adventure that pits their skills against a horrifying new menace. Inside this box, the warrior's handbook Night and Day presents information for the fighting men and women of Ansalon, including:

  • Roles for warriors, such as the mercenary, the rogue knight, and more!
  • Histories and descriptions of the Knights of Solamnia and the Knights of Takhisis, plus an introduction to the new Legion of Steel.
  • Expanded rules for conducting battles, as well as plenty of new weapons.

Also in Heroes of Steel is "The Rising Storm," an adventure that sets in motion an epic struggle for the dominance of Krynn: "Dragons of a New Age." The heroes' journey to uncover the new threat facing Ansalon can link with events in the DRAGONLANCE: FIFTH AGE novel "The Dawning of a New Age," by Jean Rabe. A beautifully illustrated full-color poster map details western Ansalon, which the heroes explore in their quest.

Whether knight or mercenary, war-sorcerer or yeoman, Krynn needs the strength of its warriors to conquer the evil abroad in the Fifth Age.

Heroes of Steel uses the SAGA dramatic adventure rules introduced in the DRAGONLANCE: FIFTH AGE boxed set.

Product History

Heroes of Steel (1996), by Skip Williams, is the first heroic splatbook for Fifth Age. It was published in October 1996.

Origins: The Five Books. While the Dragonlance Fifth Age roleplaying game (1996) was being written, TSR was simultaneously developing five supplements for the game — which showed a strong level of support for the new system. These five supplements were presumably the four "Heroes" splatbooks and The Last Tower: The Legacy of Raistlin (1997); together, they would carry the line into 1998 and over to the stewardship of Wizards of the Coast.

Metaplotting Along. The original Dragonlance adventures (1984-1986) were closely linked to the Dragonlance Chronicles novels (1984-1985) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. TSR decided to repeat this linkage with its new Fifth Age line. Each of the four Heroes supplements included an adventure, and these adventures were linked to the Dragons of a New Age trilogy (1996-1998) by Jean Rabe.

As ever, linking together the plots of novels and roleplaying adventures is contentious, because it can remove the players' agency in the game. Here, the Fifth Age development team decided to closely mirror the novels, but noted "these adventures do not parallel the novels' plotlines perfectly — your heroes undoubtedly will choose different paths than the Heroes of the Heart do in the novels".

The main plot of Heroes of Steel's adventure, "The Rising Storm", focuses on the Heroes' discovery of the dragonspawn. As such, it's somewhat similar to DL9: “Dragons of Deceit” (1985), the original Dragonlance adventure that revealed the secret of the draconians' birth.

Adventure Tropes. The adventure format of Heroes of Steel is identical to the one in Fifth Age; it's broken into acts and scenes to create a series of episodic encounters. Each encounter is again very carefully structured.

Expanding Fifth Age Heroes of Steel is a splat book all about Fifth Age's warriors. It thus provides numerous warrior roles. There is also info on new weapons and several new rules systems, two of which are particularly notable.

The combined action rules allow characters to work together to accomplish otherwise impossible tasks. They're generally considered crucial to the play of Fifth Age — especially when fighting dragons!

The mass combat rules allow for army battles, something that had long been crucial to the war-torn Dragonlance setting; the original Dragonlance adventures had been supported by the freshly minted Battlesystem (1985) game, but now a new system required new mass-combat support.

Exploring Krynn. Heroes of Steel puts its strongest focus on the knightly orders of Krynn. These organizations had always been a fairly unique element of Krynn's world design, but now the Knights of Solamnia, the Knights of Takhisis, and the Legion of Steel all got a new spotlight. 

  • The Knights of Solamnia was a classic organization that had previously received good detail in classic supplements and magazines alike, particularly "My Honor is My Life" by Tracy Hickman in Dragon #94 (February 1985), then DL8: "Dragons of War" (1985).
  • The Knights of Takhisis originated as the dragonarmies of the War of the Lance and had also been a strong force during the Summer of Chaos depicted in Dragons of Summer Flame (1995), where they were sometimes called the Dark Knights. Confusingly, they would later take the name Knights of Neraka.
  • The Legion of Steel was totally new to Dragonlance gaming. It grew out of the history of Steel Brightblade revealed in The Second Generation (1994) and Dragons of Summer Flame (1995). 

Other detail of Krynn appear mainly through the adventure, "The Rising Storm", which takes players from Solace to Schallsea, Caergoth, and Palanthas.

Monsters of Note. Heroes of Steel introduces the dragonspawn, a new draconic monster of the Fifth Age, clearly meant to be a new take on the draconians that had helped to make classic Dragonlance successful. This supplements includes full information on how they're made.

NPCs of Note. The pre-generated characters for Heroes of Steel are all drawn from the Dragons of a New Age trilogy. They are: Blister Nimblefingers, Dhamon Grimwulf, Ferilleeagh Dawnsprinter, Rig Mer-Krel, Jasper Fireforge, Shaon of Istar, and Raph Tanglemop.

The heroes hopefully don't try to confront any of the dragon overlords, but Skie's presence is felt in the background.

About the Creators. Williams was a long time TSR employee, who'd been writing since M2: "Vengeance of Alphaks" (1986). He took on a stronger creative role in the mid '90s; his next Fifth Age project would be The Last Tower: The Legacy of Raistlin (1997).

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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Anthony M June 29, 2016 4:28 pm UTC
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Will need the FATE deck for the fifth age books to be playable.
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File Last Updated:
June 27, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on June 28, 2016.