An ancient secret is discovered in an overrun border town, long ago forgotten by the elves of the east. It is a magical key - so obscure that history does not remember its form or even what it unlocks. But an unseen evil searches tirelessly, even as the lost knowledge finds its way into the most unlikely hands.
Key of Destiny is a DRAGONLANCE adventure for the d20 System set in the Age of Mortals. Designed to start a new campaign with 1st level characters, the adventure requires the use of the Dragonlance Campaign Setting and the d20 System core rulebooks from Wizards of the Coast.
The adventure contained within these pages will take a group of heroes from city to ruins, from wasteland to dungeon, and from despair to hope. It presents new creatures, spells, and magical items.
Key of Destiny is the first in a trilogy of epic DRAGONLANCE adventures.
Key of Destiny (2004), by Christopher Coyle, is volume one in the Dragonlance Age of Mortals campaign for D&D 3.5e. It was published in May 2004.
About the Cover. The cover is a nice return to the classics, since it's by Jeff Easley, who was the face of AD&D in the late '80s. It shows the ghostly elf Kayleigh fighting the red dragonspawn Sindra with the Peak of Malystryx in the background. Mind you, this confrontation doesn't actually happen in the book, but it's a nice combination of the adventure's climatic events.
Continuing Sovereign's Dragonlance Saga. When Sovereign Press took over the Dragonlance line in late 2003, their first release was Age of Mortals (2003), a sourcebook detailing the latest era in Krynn's history. After the publication of their Bestiary of Krynn (2004), Sovereign was once more looking forward with the "Age of Mortals Campaign", an epic adventure for the new era.
Beginning the Age of Mortals Campaign. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman completed their "War of Souls" trilogy (2000-2002) shortly before Sovereign picked up the Dragonlance license. Within those three novels, most of the Dragon Overlords from the Dragons of a New Age trilogy (1996-1998) were killed, and the gods were once more welcomed back to Krynn. It was another new age for the Dragonlance setting.
Though many fans wanted to see a 3e iteration of the classic War of the Lance, Sovereign Press instead decided to continue the story of Krynn after the War of Souls with a new adventure trilogy, the Age of Mortals Campaign. They were even given the OK to close off some dangling plot threads, such as the fate of a few NPCs … and the last Dragon Overlord in Krynn.
As was appropriate for a 21st century campaign, the Age of Mortals Campaign was more than just a series of adventures: it was an adventure path that would take characters from 1st level to 20th. Unsurprisingly, this made it really big. This first installment, Key of Destiny, was originally advertised as 128 pages, but it came in at 176 pages instead. The size of the adventures would expand as The Age of Mortals Campaign continued through Spectre of Sorrows (2005) and Price of Courage (2006).
But Not Quite the Beginning. The Age of Mortals Campaign actually began with a short adventure called "The Sylvan Key" which appeared in Dragonlance Campaign Setting (2003). It depicts the discovery of the elven music box, the Key of Quinari, an event that sets off the adventure of Key of Destiny.
Adventuring Tropes: A New Saga. The original Dragonlance Saga (1984-1986) — the story of the War of the Lance — was one of the most influential RPG campaigns of the '80s. It was a far-reaching adventure that detailed a desperate quest for great artifacts across the breadth of the continent of Ansalon, all in the face of a looming war.
How do you repeat that in a new age with a new series of adventures?
Rather than being set during a war, Key of Destiny depicts Krynn following a great war — something that was never managed well in the years after the War of the Lance, and thus was still virgin territory. However, it also repeats many of the critical beats of the original Saga. There are no less than three great artifacts within Key of Destiny, starting with that eponymous music box. As the title would lead you to expect, there's a great destiny too — a mystery that will be unlocked by the music box to unveil secrets of Krynn's past.
Key of Destiny also includes a lot of the adventure features of the Dragonlance Saga. Though the geography of the adventure is more constrained, the players will still journey across (eastern) Ansalon, with plenty of wilderness dangers, city encounters, and dungeon crawls to go around. There's also an overarching plot — though most of the deep backstory is only hinted at here. And finally there's a (red) dragon to fight, because the original Dragonlance adventures were all about spotlighting the 12 classic dragons of AD&D.
Love It or Hate It? Chapter 3 tends to be the one troublesome part of Key of Destiny. It reveals some of the background of the campaign through "spectral flickers", which are text boxes to be read aloud to the players. Unfortunately, many found the huge blocks of text boring to hear or hard to read. Cam Banks, who would author the rest of the trilogy, offered a unique alternative: when he ran the adventure he sent some of his players back in time to inhabit bodies of people in the past — allowing them to see the backstory in a more interactive fashion — while their fellows searched for their souls in the present.
Expanding Dragonlance. TSR and Wizards of the Coast detailed the early Age of Mortals in SAGA adventures featuring the ongoing "Dragons of a New Age" campaign (1996-1998). Now, the later Age of Mortals got its first chance to shine, and Sovereign focused on many of the most-changed areas of the new era, including areas ruled by the Knights of Neraka and the Legion of Steel and the region ruined by the dragon overlord Malystryx. It was a long look at a new era.
Key of Destiny also extensively details the portions of eastern Ansalon surrounding the Bay of Balfour. This includes the city of Pashin, the region of Khur, the Burning Lands, the city of Ak-Khurman, and the port of Balfor. The adventure culminates in the Desolation that was previously Goodlund, including the ruins of Kendermore and the volcanic Peak of Malystryx.
Though Key of Destiny was just the start of the Age of Mortals Campaign, it already offered one notable change to Krynn: the players' actions might allow the kender to reclaim their lost home of Kendermore.
NPCs of Note. Key of Destiny is full of NPCs who were notable to the Dragonlance saga, past or present.
- Caeldor the Betrayer is introduced here through flashbacks, and would become more important later in the campaign.
- Elijayess Moonshadow is the creation of Kevin Lamb, a Dragonlance fan who'd played Elijayess for more than 10 years, first as an AD&D 1e barbarian and later as a D&D 3e multiclass character. He convinced Coyle to include the long-standing character in the series.
- Kayleigh the elf ghost appears at the very end of the adventure, and would also become more important in later books.
- Kronn Thistleknot is a veteran of the War of the Lance who first appeared way back in DL12: "Dragons of Faith" (1986) — along with his father and potential PC, Kronin.
- Rand Lucas reappears as a brass dragon in Dragon of Krynn (2007)
- Zoe Left-Hand is obliquely suggested to be an aspect of Lunitari in Holy Order of the Stars (2005).
Whoops! Despite its size, quite a bit of material was cut out of Key of Destiny — the most important of which is the bulk of the final spectral flicker in chapter 3, which appears to have been an accidental cut. All of this material can be found in the "Key of Destiny Errata", which remains available through the Dragonlance Nexus.
About the Creators. Christopher Coyle was assigned the authorship of Key of Destiny, while Cam Banks was given the task of creating most of the stat blocks … though he later wrote chapter 4 as well, to help the book make deadline. Banks would return to write the last two volumes of the Age of Mortals Campaign, following Coyle's departure from Sovereign Press.
About the Product Historian
This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Libertad's "Let's Read the Dragonlance Key of Destiny Adventure Path" for insights into the adventure that were used in this history.