Thursday, December 13, 2018

Like a Dog with a Bone

...I just can't help/stop thinking about this thing.

I should probably have noted that I'm not all that familiar with the vast array of DragonLance novels that have been cranked out over the years. I've read the first two trilogies (more than once even) and the first short story compilation that followed those (The Magic of Krynn). For the most part, my interest in DL literature died circa 1987, very close to the time when I quit playing AD&D.

[that hiatus has lasted pretty much till this day, though I've returned to fantasy adventure gaming, i general]

So, I'm not really "caught up" on the latest stories to come out of the Krynn-network. I left off when everyone was pretty much dead or retired from adventuring. You the end of any old school style campaign.

[I write "old school" here to distinguish from what the current gamer generation refers to as "campaign play," i.e. just the completion of a multi-session/adventure story arc]

And so I've spent a little time (very little) reading through a bit of the stuff that's been created for DL since 1988: a couple decades worth of material. And most of it just bores the crap out of me. At least, the summaries and premises I'm reading...who knows, maybe if I actually picked up one of these novels, I'd find it a thrilling read. But most of it just looks like recycled fantasy. It's like the "expanded universe" of Star Wars (which I find fairly irritating)...just name-dropping the same surnames, repeating the same tropes, scraping the same plots for some last bit of hidden flavor. Oh, no! The Queen of Darkness is at it again!

*sigh* That's me: Mr. Jaded. Though, as I said, perhaps if I read one of these new series I'd find myself excited and enthralled. But I just can't muster much enthusiasm for a story about the kids of the protagonists in the stories that once enthralled me...and even less enthusiasm for stories about the kids of the antagonists!

But having said that, I still find myself drawn to the original setting, the original premise, and the original conflicts of the creators. Hell, I even spent the last couple days skim-reading both War of the Twins and Test of the Twins, mainly to try to get a handle on the timeline of Krynn from Cataclysm to the "War of the Lance" (that's The Fourth Dragon War for all you DL scholars/nerds out there). I was thinking of writing-up a B/X conversion of one or three of the old TSR adventure modules, but just looking through the encounter charts of DL1 is just...ugh. It's such a crap-sandwich, it needs a huge overhaul just to scale it appropriately for B/X play.

[please, please, please....someone explain to me the rhyme or reason for the numbering scheme in Xak-Tsaroth? Please? Why do we have 46a through 46g followed by 47a through 47j followed by 48, 49, 50, then 51a through 51e, then 52, then 53a and 53b, then 54a and 54b, then 56, 57a and 57b,, 58a through 58c, 59a and b, etc. etc.? Did the authors figure they were going to run out of 2-digit numbers for encounters or something? So start the dungeon at 1 instead of 44! It doesn't bear any resemblance to the wilderness encounters...unless you simply want to designate it the next stop on the DL railroad. Just re-numbering the bloody maps would be a serious chore]

I do agree with GusL's assessment that a lot of the encounters are pretty weak-sauce for a party of 4th to 6th level characters, even (or especially) given these particular pre-gens. But actually, some of the wandering monster encounters are pretty beefy. 2-8 trolls? 2-12 wraiths? Sure, these guys have magical weapons, but an encounter with 12 wraiths is probably going to leave the party shy a few levels. Remember, this is AD&D (no saves for energy drain)...and also a setting where high level clerics (and restoration spells) don't exist!

I have to admit, the sadism makes me a grin a bit.

The black dragon is about the only thing right, though it may be statted a little too strong for straight B/X play. Heck, it's a little strong for these AD&D characters, except that the blue crystal staff is usable by any Lawful Good character (there are four in the party). Still, if the thing is low on charges (maybe because it's been restoring level drained characters) and Khisanth shows up before they get back to the staff's charging station (the black dragon has a 3% chance of appearing per day spent in hills/mountains or a 7% chance per day spent wandering the marsh), I can see this train jumping the track.

That tiny jet of acid does 64 damage.
Which is...well, that's not ideal, right? It's nice to know the railroad can be derailed as designed, but not cool that it's just a matter of random chance (and DM intervention) whether or not that happens. A little more player agency (and the consequences thereof) would be nice. Duh.

HOWEVER, doing the conversion (or, rather, the overhaul) is really step two. First step is converting the setting of Krynn to B/X in a way that doesn't leave me despising it. I am just so busy right now with the holidays that I don't know if I'm going to get around to posting anything. Probably I shouldn't even BE working on this...but right now I'm like a dog with a bone. Just worrying at it.

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