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DL4 Dragons of Desolation (1e)


The draconians have now conquered the civilized lands to the north. You have led a struggling, starving band of refugees out of slavery-but freedom and safety lie over an impassible mountain range! There is only one way to safety: find the doors of the ancient dwarven kingdom of Thorbardin, and persuade the rulers to let the refugees pass.

What price will the dwarven thanes ask? Can you succeed in your mission before the draconians destroy the hidden camp of the refugees?

"Dragons of Desolation" is the fourth Dragonlance adventure for use with the AD&D game system, and concludes the first book of Dragonlance. You can play this adventure by itself or as part of the grand quest that spans the entire Dragonlancestory.

An adventure for characters level 6-8
Written by Tracy Hickman and Michael Dobson

Product History

DL4: "Dragons of Desolation" (1984), by Tracy Hickman and Michael Dobson, is the fourth in the Dragonlance Chronicles series of adventures. It was published in November 1984.

Continuing the "DL" Series. "Dragons of Desolation" concludes the "First Book of Dragonlance" — which was the first of three Books that together detailed the War of the Lance. More specifically it completes the storyline of the refugees that the Companions met in DL2: "Dragons of Flame" (1984) and traveled with in DL3: "Dragons of Hope" (1984). It also concludes the storyline of Verminaard and his red dragons, which ran through those same adventures.

Dragon of the Month. Good dragons were introduced to Krynn in DL3: "Dragons of Hope", where the players briefly met a brass dragon. The authors of "Dragons of Desolation" faced a large challenge because they present the second of the good dragons — a gold dragon named Evenstar — and they're forced to make him a more integral part of the adventure. They pull it off well by making Evenstar into a guardian who tests the Companions without truly causing them damage. Some of this occurs while he's in disguise, which allows for some great roleplaying in the adventure.

"Dragons of Desolation" is thus the gold-dragon adventure, though it also features the return of the fearsome reds.

Adventuring Tropes. Like all of the Dragonlance Chronicles adventures, "Dragons of Desolation" presents an event-driven plot that creates an epic storyline. In fact, it's probably the most epic of the adventures to date — in part because it offers a climax to the first Book of Dragonlance and in part because it reveals the era-spanning history of a dwarf city that has closed its gates to the world for hundreds of years.

Part of the adventure is still surprisingly open, including a trek through an immense dwarven city and the exploration of the Floating Tomb of Derkin (or Duncan in later sources). However the ending is a bit of a railroad — both in ensuring that the final epic fight occurs and that a certain character dies during it. Here, the authors were really finding their ground — figuring out how to tell an epic story within the constraints of an adventure module; individual players can decide their level of success (though that may largely depend on individual GMs).

With that said, in the end the players do determine the success of the adventure. They might lose in the final battle, and even if they win, it's possible that the refugees are slaughtered in the meantime.

A Different Sort of Handout & Map. As usual for the Dragonlance Chronicles adventures, this one contains a poem and a song that come from within the world. There are also some magnificent maps. The Floating Tomb is depicted as a beautiful isometric map that shows multiple half-levels and weird interconnections throughout. The enormous dwarven city is just as impressive: it's laid out as a huge grid. Sixteen standardized blocks, which appear on a poster map, are then placed into that grid as appropriate — creating a vast domain without the need to map all of it individually.

The Novel Connection. The wedding of Goldmoon and Riverwind that ends this adventure appeared in Dragons of Autumn Twilight (1984), but novelists Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis skipped over the rest of the events of "Dragons of Desolation" in their original Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy (1984-1985).

They returned to these events decades later when they authored Dragons of the Dwarven Depths (2006). The latter half of the novel covers the major events of "Dragons of Desolation" including the journey into Thorbardin and the exploration of Duncan's Tomb. However it takes more liberties with the adventure than the authors were willing to in the mid '80s. Most notably, Flint largely solos the Tomb Quest, which is something an adventuring party would never do.

The authors continued to respect the continuity of both the novels and the adventures by having a draconian masquerade as the dragon lord Verminaard, who had been killed in the novels but was the major antagonist of this adventure. They even give him a unconfirmed death, so that no one could ever know whether it was a real or fake Verminaard who was assaulting the Companions.

Expanding Krynn. "Dragons of Desolation" was the first book to give extensive details on the dwarves of Krynn. It not only details their city sufficiently to run many, many adventures there, but it also gives background on the dwarves themselves. This includes an explanation of the 7 races of dwarves in Krynn — the Hylar, Theiwar, Daewar, Daergar, Neidar, Klar, and Aghar — and an explanation of how they're more broadly divided into mountain dwarves, hill dwarves, gully dwarves, and derro.

The Adventure Continues. Though "Dragons of Desolation" concluded the First Book of Dragonlance, the Second Book of Dragonlance began a short time later with DL6: "Dragons of Ice" (1985). In between, TSR published the first Krynn sourcebook, DL5: "Dragons of Mystery" (1984) — though it concentrates as much on the Companions as on the setting itself.

Future History. The entire First Book of Dragonlance was slightly updated for AD&D 2e as DLC1: Dragonlance Chronicles Volume I (1990) and then it was revised by Margaret Weis Productions for D&D 3.5e as Dragons of Autumn (2006).

Though "Dragons of Desolation" is almost a mini-sourcebook for dwarves, they got a full sourcebook a few years later, Dwarven Kingdoms of Krynn (1993); it was the only splatbook ever produced for Krynn.

About the Creators. Hickman is the original inventor of Dragonlance; this was his third adventure for the series. Meanwhile, this was Dobson's only contribution to the Dragonlance adventures, though he also worked on DL5: "Dragons of Mystery". Dobson would soon become better-known as the coauthor (with Douglas Niles) of the "Bloodstone Pass" series (1985-1988).

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

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Customer avatar
Ernie N June 06, 2022 2:33 pm UTC
I have created a 5e Conversion of DL4 Dragons of Desolation, complete with over 20 maps. Enjoy.

In addition to the 5e Conversion of DL4 please check out my other DL series conversions.

Thank you.
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Tom Y October 20, 2021 3:40 pm UTC
POD please
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Andrew C August 14, 2021 12:38 pm UTC
POD please
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Product Information
Gold seller
Rules Edition(s)
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TSR DL9139
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5.48 MB
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This title was added to our catalog on January 28, 2014.