Saturday, December 15, 2018

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing...

From DL1 (Dragons of Despair):
Clerical spells have not existed for nearly 300 years. Some people still call themselves clerics, still belong to worshipful orders; however, all of these have turned their backs on the true gods in search of other, less demanding gods (which do not exist). These pseudo-clerics use the same combat table as true clerics but have no spell abilities. 
There are a LOT of gods in the DragonLance setting: twenty-one, in fact, divided evenly between good, evil, and neutrality. Eighteen of these (including the Big Guys, Paladine and Takhisis) are represented by constellations in the night sky, while the last three are named for the planet's moons, each one of which represents a different alignment of magic.

The basic gist of the setting's premise is that the Cataclysm occurred 300 years ago due in part to A) the pride of the world's best cleric (the King-Priest of Istar) and B) to help prepare the people for "the tests that were to come" (the return of the dragons and the Fourth Dragon War). After the Cataclysm (a giant meteor strike from the gods that re-made the geography of the planet while causing massive destruction), people "turned away" from their gods, believing that their gods had forsaken them. Because of this, they've lost the ability to even become clerics (of the spell-casting variety) much so that three centuries later, folks consider the idea of spell-casting clerics to be a myth (at best) or blasphemy and "witchcraft" at worse. Magic-users are few and far between in Krynn (despite the prevalence of enchanted weapons in the adventure modules *ahem*) and in some of the, "devout" towns and villages, folks are not above burning them at the stake out of fear and revulsion for their powers.

Okay. Now...

Now (in the time of the War of the Lance) Takhisis has entered the world (at least partially). Actually, she entered the world partially around the same time as the Cataclysm (that part's a little sketchy). Somehow, she got some folks to start worshipping her (in secret, natch) and managed to get them (or her evil dragons) to steal the good dragon eggs (thus blackmailing them to stay out of the War), and thus built up an army (complete with dragon-riding officers) to conquer the world...

In the first adventure module, the players manage to find "proof" of the gods (well, the good ones anyway...) and clerics who convert to the True Faith suddenly gain access to spell magic as a cleric of the same level they already were (so a 5th level cleric of a false god would become a 5th level cleric of Paladine with all the resulting power and ability, for example). The only gods really available for worship within the capsule time period of the War are Takhisis, Paladine, and Mishakal (the good goddess of healing). Presumably the other gods would come into play in any on-going, post-War campaign set in Krynn.

[as a side-note, I actually find the few "false gods" that are detailed in the module to be quite interesting]


Okay. *sigh* This isn't terrible. There are just some holes in it that raise questions I don't like (at least, I don't like the answers). Here's the main crux of the matter:

1) In times of disaster (like, say, after a terrible Cataclysm), more than a few folks tend to turn to faith (i.e. become more devoted to their deities). Certainly, some people will shake their fist at Heaven and curse the gods, but not EVERYone. And in the pseudo-medieval world, it would take a LONG TIME for folks to even get an inkling that the Cataclysm was caused by "the gods' anger." Word of the doings in Istar (on the eastern edge of the continent) wouldn't travel very fast, given the that most of Istar (and its surroundings) are underwater, and that the roads between the regions would have become incredibly hazardous (due to the epic magnitude of the disaster), and that folks would be too worried about salvaging their lives in a post-apocalyptic world to bother with sending messengers. Remember that magic-users were in short supply, having become personas non grata and being kicked out of all cities shortly before the time of the Cataclysm. Why would they bother to enlighten anyone? More likely they'd have a BETTER idea of what actually happened, given their ability to contact other planes.

[perhaps wizards were responsible for spreading the false rumors of the gods' "abandonment" of Krynn? That would make some sense, especially given a motivation of NOT wanting to see the re-ascendance of clerical power...after all, it was the King-Priest's edicts that removed magic-users from their towers, even if he wasn't ALSO responsible for a fiery mountain smashing the planet]

Anyway, folks in Palanthas or Abasynia would be more likely to turn to their gods in the months following the disaster...and wouldn't their faith be rewarded? At least by the gods of good? Wouldn't evil followers of the dark gods be turning to worship out of fear and servility (and wouldn't Takhisis be O So Glad to welcome them into her fold, hoping to establish a foothold all the sooner?)? Certainly many individuals continued to believe in the gods (the dwarves never stopped believing in Reorx, for example)'d think that in 300 years some individuals would have established small congregations of followers of the True Faith? So why no granted spell powers from the true gods of Krynn?

2) Here's a possible explanation: more than pure faith/devotion is necessary. This is the (D&D) idea that clerical miracles are still spells, not prayers. And spells require a deeper understanding of cosmic forces (or, at least, knowledge of the proper magic words) to function. And since all "true clerics" magically disappeared a couple days before the Cataclysm (I didn't mention that raises it's own philosophical questions regarding "what the hell are the gods doing?"), I can see how that specialized knowledge would have been lost, sunk to the bottom of the (new) Blood Sea of Istar. In this case, no matter how devoted a worshipper, there would be no spells "granted" by the gods, the deeper mysteries having been lost from the gods' worshippers.

So, this makes quite a bit of's one of the reasons I like the B/X system of not awarding spells to clerics until 2nd level. HOWEVER, if that's the case clerics should NOT suddenly be awarded high level magic just by acquiring a magic amulet and professing devotion to an old deity. That's Nope. Too easy. And too dumb.

And this "crux" is just the main issue...I've see a lot of plot-holes surrounding the concept in an AD&D-based setting (where clerics of non-human races exist). In a B/X- or OD&D-based setting I can make a little more sense of things (the latter because it turns Takhisis-worshipping clerics into "evil high priests"), but those don't matter much if you can't solve the problem of Elistan suddenly gaining the ability to raise dead after decades spent following false gods.

Oh, and the setting doesn't say anything about a cleric's ability to turn undead. Is this ability possessed by false clerics? Or is it only granted by picking up a magic medallion of "True Faith." The rules don't address the issue (and there are plenty of undead in the adventures).

All right, that's enough for now.


  1. I could live with "iron pieces", even if I thought they were stupid, but this is one of the main reasons that I just couldn't get into DL. The authors seemed to have no understanding of how human beings work, and it just ruined my ability to buy into the setting.

    Plus, to me that first book was just badly written. I know a lot of people liked it, but I was already used to good fantasy writers even at that relatively early point in my life.

    1. @ Faol:

      Oh, the first book is godawful...though, I didn't realize that till I went back and read it a second time. Much of it reads like an adventure module (not surprising), complete with lists of gear and specific counts of monsters encountered.

      But for a kid used to reading adventure modules (as I was in those days) it didn't bother me the first time through (though I do remember thinking the Forest Master was weird...kind of the Tom Bombadil of the saga, if you ask me). And the books certainly improved the more they actually wrote.

      I remember them fondly and am glad I read them...which isn't something I say about all the books I've read over the years!
      : )

    2. The one thing that is interesting in the setting and books—dragon riding warriors and a war of dragons—was done better in fewer pages by Mayfair in their Dragons supplement. Every other element of DL that was designed to make it different from bog-standard D&D is terrible, and in some cases, such as "tinker gnomes", went on to make other things that TSR produced qualitatively worse.

      Damn, that sounds harsher than I mean to, but I really can't state the case against tinker gnomes* strongly enough, and I struggle to find anything other than the dragon-riders and the wars of dragons that has any value outside of the DL setting to me.

      And, again, I'm really trying to not be too harsh about DL, but I never could understand what other people saw in it. And that's frustrating. When someone like you comes along and says, "yeah I remember it fondly but there's all this stuff, pretty much the whole setting, that just sucks and I would toss out or change radically", I just get more baffled.

      *Also kender and gully dwarves, but those, at least, didn't really spread outside of the confines of DL as much as tinker gnomes did. Well, kender almost did, but they didn't make it into BX/BECMI products as far as I know.

    3. @ Faol:

      I explained in an earlier post a bit of my fondness for the novels: they were published at a formative point in my gaming career and provided a look at the POTENTIAL of how one could use D&D. Consider how many young folks came into D&D with B/X (1981) or BECMI (1983)...boxed games sold in toy stores with an age range of "10 years and up." By 1985 those 12-14 year olds were picking up the DL novels because they had the TSR logo right on the cover. And for an unsophisticated reader of limited literary experience, they aren't half bad...lots of bloodletting and sexual titillation and humor (provided by the kender, gnomes, and gully dwarves), plus badass dragon lords.

      I'm not familiar with Mayfair's "Dragons," and back in the '80s I wasn't much into Mayfair anyway. TSR was the brand I knew, trusted, and consumed...and it wasn't like there were a bunch of internet bloggers telling me different.

    4. Yeah, I guess I get that. I still feel dubious about the books, but maybe I was two years too old when they came out.

    5. Hey, man, I get it. I think folks who love Harry Potter are pretty crazy.
      ; )

  2. Forget it man, it’s Tracy Hickman. Things are just gonna be stupid if you look too closely.

    You can still have fun in the setting. Just don’t ask it to make sense.

    1. @ Scott:

      Much of Dungeons & Dragons is pretty darn stupid if you "look too closely." My goal isn't to avert my eyes; rather, I'm trying to analyze what exactly bugs me about this stuff and see if there's any way I can make it LESS "stupid."
      ; )

  3. I just finished reading the original DL trilogy for the first time. Never had any DL experience prior. I agree with all of you, especially that the Mayfair Role Aids book Dragons is an awesome supplement. Its dragons are not D&D dragons though.

    1. True, though they are clearly derived from them.