Tuesday, September 9, 2014

General Gamery: RPGaDay Catch-up 21-31

And finally, the remainder of my adventures in RPGaDay:

21st- Favorite Licensed RPG
There's a lot to this category. Evil Hat has had a stroke of genius in their Dresden Files and Atomic Robo licences. Cubicle 7's The One Ring and Fantasy Flight's Star Wars: Edge of the Empire/ Age of Rebellion/ Force of Destiny series of games are unequivocally the best incarnations of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars respectively. But there is one licensed game that takes the cake for me.

Marvel Heroic.

Yes, I know I'm biased since I got to work on this game (The Civil War: X-men supplement and the Annihilation books have my name in the credits). But seriously, everything about this game is awesome. It is born of the Cortex Plus rules system, but goes so far beyond its predecessors, Smallville and Leverage. More than anything, Marvel Heroic evokes the same feeling I got as a kid turning the 4-color pages for the first time. In fact, read my review for more.

22nd- Best Secondhand RPG Purchase
Ah, I love conventions. Sure, I've picked up my fair share of secondhand RPG books at Half Price Books, at my local brick and mortar, Yottaquest, at garage sales, and some just as hand-me-downs. But the bargain basement booths at conventions give me so many options to scratch that cheap RPG book itch.

Through the convention buy one get on free booths I've completed collections of great games like Margaret Weis Productions 3.5 run of Dragonlance, okay games like the d20 Conan from Mongoose, and pretty crappy games like Decipher's Star Trek RPG. But one series of games stands out among the morass of... admittedly mostly d20 products: Fantasy Flight's Midnight.

I usually explain Midnight as what Middle Earth would be like a hundred years after the fall of Gondor if Sauron had won the War of the Ring. The player characters have to hide their abilities and act mostly in secret to avoid being noticed for being heroes because the known world is under the occupation of the dark forces. It is fantastic. And one Gencon, I got used copies of every book in the series for less than fifty bucks.

23rd- Coolest Looking RPG Product / Book
Numenera.

I'm not the biggest fan of Monte Cook. I was one of the few people I know that hated Unearthed Arcana, and while I like his take on World of Darkness and I love the Iron Heroes books produced by his company (but mostly not written by him), for me most Monte Cook books fall flat.

However, Numenera is gorgeous. Set one billion years in Earth's future, Numenera seamlessly blends science fiction and fantasy for a rich and deep world. But as good as the world is, as innovative as the mechanics are (and Monte made a lot of great choices in his design elements), these are not what drove me to this book. The art is amazing. It is full of lush landscapes, evocative imagery, and some of the nicest paintings of the human figure I've had the pleasure to witness. And the graphic designer managed to keep their design elements unobtrusive enough to be able to showcase the art, but in a thematic way that brings the books together as a whole. It's enough to warrant the tagline: "Numenera- Come for Monte Cook's rich world and game mechanics. Stay for Kieran Yanner's amazing art."

24th- Most Complicated RPG Owned
I've played a lot of complicated games over the years- I am a product of the '80s RPG scene and an avid wargamer, so it comes with the territory. But despite the complications of certain aspects of Shadowrun, or Traveller, most of my games aren't all that complicated. Oh sure I've played HERO system, Mekton Zeta, and Hybrid, but none of those grace my shelves. Nope, my most complicated RPG shares double billing for my rarest RPG. I'll let you read more about it there.

...so many graphs...

25th- Favorite RPG No One Else Wants To Play
This is an easy one. Mouseguard.

Mouseguard is based on the Burning Wheel system, but is a bit more approachable. I played Burning Wheel at I-con a few times and loved it. But Mouseguard takes those rules and simplifies them in the right parts while clarifying in other. It makes a good game great. But that's not the reason it's not played.

Mouseguard is based on the popular indy comic of the same name. The brainchild of the far too talented David Petersen, it is the Eisner award-winning tale of a cadre of mice charged to protect the borders and peoples of an all mouse society. It is full of medieval imagery, some blood, violence, and pretty amazing dramatic moments. It might be the best indy comic in my formidable comic collection.

So.. great world, great game, why does no one want to play?

Easy- too many games. To date, my amazing wife and I are the only ones that have read enough of or really have an attachment to Mouseguard. Add that into the inevitable glut of games like Pathfinder, Star Wars, Firefly, Shadowrun, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Yeah...back burner of the back burners. Maybe when my daughter is old enough to enjoy the comics, I'll find a way to indoctrinate her to the Mouseguard.

26th- Coolest Character Sheet
I was going to originally mention Spirit of the Century for this one, but then I looked up and remembered Numenera's unfathomable sheet.  I mean, seriously- look at this thing!

27th- Game I'd Like To See a New / Improved Edition Of
Please, please Star Trek.

Look, I love the old FASA system. Decipher and Last Unicorn should never have been allowed to write games ever. For anything. Ever. And the d20 Modern system that works so well for Spycraft doesn't quite fit for Prime Directive. What it needs is a rules-light system that lets you get thrust into plot and character over mechanics.

Sound familiar, Geoff?

Also, In Nomine. More than a revamp- this game of angels and demons needs a line-wide retooling. Scrap the old ruleset and start anew. But I might as well wait for hell to freeze over for that to happen (heh). Instead, I'll just write that myself in Cortex Plus. It's coming. I promise.


28th- Scariest Game I've Played
Spin the bottle in the 4th grade with Gina Fuentes. Oh, wait we're talking RPG.

It will seem cliched, but for me it was a game of the modern incarnation of Call of Cthulhu, a game called Cthulhu Now that I played in the early 90's. With a really descriptive and imaginative GM, this game can be as terrifying for the player as it is for the characters. I don't remember his name, but our GM that night in his seemingly abandoned house in Norwood was both of those things. And he set the scene with all the lights out in the house on a stormy night and only a couple candles to play by.

I remember having nightmares from it, but not much else.

29th- Most Memorable Encounter
There have been so many encounters over the years. Maybe too many to count.

Like the time I killed a party of overzealous 10th level adventurers with kobolds and clever use of murder holes.

The "Zone of Truth Incident."

Vecna's Knot with Treena hiding in the treasure room.

Jaster's great fall.

"Vesh just killed the Moff."

Khoth turns to the dark side.

Chris brings Khoth back to kill his other character- the traitorous doctor.

"You guys are level 6 right?"
"No Todd, we're level 3."
"Crap."

Fester, goblin cook, exalted of Vecna.

Jack Rolls a 20.
Adam: "Jack, I think Falcon just one-shotted Hades. Here's a hero point so you can reroll."
Jack rolls a 20.
Adam groans.

But for most memorable, I'm going to have to go with the play in the Council of Thieves adventure path.
You did not make them do a table reading of The Six Trials of Larazod!
Yes, Self, I did. And it was GLORIOUS.

30th- Rarest RPG Owned
Chivalry & Sorcery: Warfare and Wizardry in the Feudal Age (1st edition).

This book entered my collection as a hand-me-down form my father's board game collection. Released in 1977 as a more realistic slant on D&D, Chivalry and Sorcery didn't have a very large following or print run- at least initially. My dad doesn't roleplay, so how this ended up as part of my his collection, I'm not sure. And I really don't know when it ended up in mine, but I loved the book. Despite the abundance of charts and graphs that were exceptional, even for that era of gaming, C&S was more a study of feudal life and conflicts than monsters in dungeon.

While there are more than a few limited edition gems on my shelf, this book is by far the rarest and hardest to find.

31st- Favorite RPG Of All Time
I would love to say that one of my own games, Dime Stories, Superhuman, even the unfinished Playthings is my favorite RPG. But I don't really have that kind of attachment to any of my creations other than my daughter.

The problem is, so many different games are my favorites because of certain aspects of them. Shadowrun's setting, D&D's longevity, the way Pathfinder retools and fixes all of the issues I had with 3.5, the various incarnations of Star Wars... because Star Wars, Firefly for similar reasons, Smallville for no other reason than because it was my first professional credit, Marvel Heroic because it is Cam's best work and I got to write Nova and X-Factor, everything with the FATE rules because they are awesome. No sir, I don't have just one favorite. I have many, for as many different reasons.

Instead, I'll talk about the one game that should be on everybody's favorite list. The best free, downloadable, independent RPG on the market. The steampunk tour de force called Lady Blackbird.


Lady Blackbird feels as if it was written as an adventure first. The characters and game rules followed. In sixteen pages, John Harper (of Agon and Danger Patrol fame) gives us a pretty complete game with multi-faceted characters, a steampunk Firefly-esque universe, and just the right rules to make a fun, rollicking romp of an rpg. This is what I was failing at doing when I wrote Dime Stories, and will be the benchmark for me as a game designer for years to come.

It's that good.

Even better, John offers it up for free on his website. Go there now.

~Joe

Sunday, September 7, 2014

General Gamery: RPGaDay Catch-up 14-20

Because Gencon happened and I got a bit distracted in the days following, here is the continuation of my adventures in RPGaDay:

14th- Best Convention Purchase
This is a tough one since I've been to nearly every Gencon and Origins in the last decade and several Gencons and I-Cons (Long Island convention at my alma matter) in the years before. A lot of games have made it into my stash thanks to these, so it's tough to narrow down to a "best." Instead, I'll have to mention two, specifically.

The First is going to be the Serenity Roleplaying Game. Not because it is a phenomenal game (It's not bad, but not great), not because it's Firefly/Serenity (most of my friends already know of my Firefly obsession), but because my interest in getting the limited edition version of this game led to the jump-start of my freelance career.

While working at the Slugfest Games booth at Gencon, I made it over to the Margaret Weis booth to purchase one of the limited edition copies of Serenity. In the process, I got to meet the writers and staff of MWP at the time- Jamie Chambers, Cam Banks, and even Margaret Weis herself. After a hurried presentation, I gave the kids at MWP a copy of my in-progress work on Superhuman. From what I understand, it was that presentation that led Cam to contact me to work on Smallville.

For the second, I'm going to have to break from the RPG specifics and move into board game/RPG hybrid. Cutthroat Caverns by Smirk and Dagger. Cutthroat Caverns is a competitive dungeon delve game. You need your allies to complete the adventure, but you want their share of the treasure. While it's only made it to my table a couple times, it is still pure genius.

15th- Favorite Convention Game
Again, the same goes as the above question. Too many conventions, too many games. Most of the games I played at conventions were either board game demos I ran for Slugfest like Red Dragon Inn and En Garde, or games I wrote myself *COUGH* Dime Stories *COUGH*. But, I did get to play a bunch of games not written by me. While I love Pathfinder, my PFS experiences at convention aren't all that different to my home experiences. Playing both Critical! Go Westerly and Gaesa were great experiences, but I can't say I would put them as my favorite.

That right goes to my pal Geoff Bottone's new RPG, Velour & Go-go Boots. V&GGB is only a temporary name for the game that started as a snarky take on Star Trek: The Original Series, but instead evolved into a rich and hearty Star Trek experience in Geoff's deft hands. Unlike actual Star Trek games, my companion Brian and I weren't bogged down by the rules system. Instead we could dive headlong into the type of moral quandaries the old Star Trek series used to emphasize. Even if Brian and I were Geoff's only players at that sitting, it was the best game I played this past Gencon.

16th- Game I Wish I Owned
This is an easy one. In the early eighties, TSR had the rights to Indiana Jones and released the short-lived RPG, The Adventures of Indiana Jones Roleplaying Game. Soon after, Lucasfilm took the rights back and TSR had to pulp any remaining stock.

To commemorate the end of the license, TSR employees in the UK made a small pyramid shaped trophy from some of the remains. Based on that trophy design, the Diana Jones award has been awarded since 2000 every Gencon for excellence in game design. I'd love to have copies of the former if only because my childhood best friend, Chris, and I were stalwart Indiana Jones fans. But more than anything else, I'd love to write something worthy of being awarded the latter version. While the Ennies are awesome, they can feel like a popularity contest. The Diana Jones Awards are really what will make me feel like I've written something worthwhile.

17th- Funniest Game I've Played
Okay, this is a tough call. I have, as seems to be the trend, two choices for this one. Crap... I have three.

First, My partners in the Saturday Morning Games Venture, Geoff and Jonathan wrote a great game called Critical! Go Westerly. It was written for comedic value and when I read it, I hear the narrator from Hitchhiker's Guide in my head. That was intentional.

Second, Paranoia. Anyone that has ever played this game knows there is little that is as hilarious as nonstop clonedeath (TM)- especially if your GM is particularly creative- mine was.

The third one is The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. 'Nuff said.

I'm not deciding. Buy them all and decide for yourself.

18th- Favorite Game System
Mine is probably not a popular answer.

My favorite is the SAGA System from TSR used in their 90's iterations of Dragonlance and Marvel Super Heroes (Before you ask, this is NOT the same as Star Wars SAGA which is just D20 with a facelift). Instead of dice, SAGA used cards (called Fate Cards) to decide actions. While your hand was random, you decided how much effort your character put into an action by how high of a card number you played. It also used card suits to synergize with character attributes and descriptors on the cards for flavor. This was a great idea if a little before its time. The gaming community wasn't really ready for this concept as Magic: the Gathering was still fairly new and the concept of deck-building games hadn't come into light yet.

It sounds like it should be cumbersome, but it really isn't. At one point, I had a table of twelve players in Dragonlance using three sets of Fate Cards playing simultaneously and GMming felt effortless.

19th- Favorite Published Adventure
This could go a bunch of ways. In my youth, I loved a bunch of adventures- from Shadowrun romps like Bottled Demon and Harlequin, to my favorite D&D modules like Ravenloft, Isle of Dread, and the first Spelljammer module: Wildspace. These days, I love some of the brilliance I see from Paizo. Most of their adventure paths are perfect, especially the Rise of the Runelords adventure path and the Skull & Shackles path. The first is almost a gazetteer of Golarion, the second a wonderful pirate romp.

But my favorite is a trilogy form the old Marvel Super Heroes line. MT1, 2, and 3. Or by name: All this and World War II, The Weird, Weird West, and The Revenge of Kang. These adventure took modern superheroes through the history of the Marvel universe from WW2, the Wild West, through the creation of the X-men, Fantastic Four, and heroes like the Hulk and Spider-man- all in an effort to thwart the machinations of Kang the Conqueror. I liked it so much that years later, I tailored a Mutants and Masterminds adventure in the same vain.



20th- Will Still Play in 20 Years Time...
It's tough to say what I'll still be playing in twenty years. In all likelihood, it's less about the game than the world. Whatever it's incarnation, I'll likely be playing some version of Star Wars (hopefully my current favorite- the Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPG or whatever follows that), Marvel Super Heroes (preferably SAGA or Marvel Heroic), and Dungeons & Dragons (or Pathfinder as it were). In my own campaigns, I've seen my game groups keep the ties of a campaign going despite new editions, publishers, and members to our game groups, so nothing would really surprise me.


~The Doc

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

General Gamery: RPGaDay 13

Continuing my adventures in RPGaDay:

13th- Most Memorable Character Death
The most memorable death is a relatively recent death and wasn't one of mine.

A couple years ago, in Star Wars Saga RPG, I was gamemastering the Dawn of Defiance campaign for my friends. The group of  proto-rebels were deep in Imperial territory on Coruscant. And they were in the skyscraper fortress tower of the Inquisitors. As the tower began to fall, the resident scoundrel, Jaster, decided the best thing to do was to make sure his friends and the scientists they were sent to rescue were safe. Unfortunately for Jaster, despite securing everyone in pods that would inevitably keep them alive for the fall of a couple hundred stories, he had only his jetpack to keep him alive, and it was out of fuel. Jaster fell to the ground and several thousands of tons of building fell on him.

Heroic deaths are always the best in an RPG, and the group felt like it was missing something without Jaster, despite the fact that his player built a new character to keep playing. I've seen many other character deaths in my years of gaming, but Jaster riding a building down to his own end remains my favorite.

~Joe

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

General Gamery: RPGaDay 12

Continuing my adventures in RPGaDay:

12th- Old RPG you still Play / Read
Okay, once again, I have two. Recently I've been re-reading the old FASERIP Marvel Superheroes RPG and FASA's Star Trek Roleplaying Game- for similar reasons.

After working on Marvel Heroic, I've hatched an idea: I want my friends to choose their favorite Marvel characters. From there I will walk them through the introduction game for each version of Marvel roleplaying- from FASERIP, through SAGA, the horrible one with the stones (yeah- you know what I'm saying), and finally Marvel Heroic. Through each, they will play the same character and see how each system works. Ahhh, I can see it now... Dreadnoughts everywhere.. good times.

Similarly, I've been itching for a good classic Star Trek game. The old FASA game is needlessly complicated in the character creation portion, but I still think it's the best RPG made for the series. Plus, I loved the starship combat system that spun out of FASA's work.

~Joe

Monday, August 11, 2014

General Gamery: RPGaDay 11

Continuing my adventures in RPGaDay:

11th- Weirdest RPG Owned
This was an easy one. The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. This game is hilarious. In a lot of ways, this storytelling game is fairly rules-light, but the whole book is narrated by the good Baron, himself. The players have to try to one-up each other with tall tales of heroism and derring-do. But the questions and obstacles the other players posit will force each player to step up their game, as it were.

Hilarity ensues.

I found this game by accident at a Gencon a few years back (mostly due to my love of Terry Gilliam), and it has been one of my favorite games to peruse, even if I don't get to play it.

~the Doc

Sunday, August 10, 2014

General Gamery: RPGaDay 1-10

I'm a little late to RPGaDay, but I'm going to play catch up today and lead into Gencon. Will I remember to post during Gencon? Probably not, but I might continue my Roll for Initiative posts from the front line.

But, as usual, I digress.

RPGaDay it the brainchild of David Chapman on his blog, and is meant to mimic Borough Press' #BookADay.

So enjoy.

1st- First RPG Played
My first RPG was Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It was 1983, I was 8, and my neighbor, Sean, wanted to run a game for me and his two brothers. I believe my first character for his game was a half-elf paladin. But we followed that game only a week later with the old FASERIP Marvel Superheroes RPG (where I was Nightcrawler). The two Games started so close together, that they run into each other a bit in my memory.

2nd- First RPG Gamemastered
The First RPG I Gamemastered was probably Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP, oh yeah), though it might have been FASA's Star Trek or Dungeons and Dragons. I didn't start gamemastering for three years, as I rather enjoyed having Sean for a GM while I lived in New York. Instead, it was slowly introducing my friend Chris into his next lifelong obsession that made me the defacto gamemaster for a while, at least here in Ohio. Eventually, Chris took over those duties with a decades long game of West End's Star Wars RPG that morphed into D20 and Saga as the new systems reared their heads.

3rd- First RPG Purchased
Ah, the smell of dollars lost. My first RPG purchase was... well...incorrect. We were playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (Orange-spined hardback books of beauty, dice, and charts). But me? Well, my first buy was the Dungeons and Dragons basic rules set 1. I was eight! What did I know? Sure, it was the easier game, but it was not the one we were playing.

Little did I know.

Of course, it was only a few weeks later that my mother bought me the Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Fiend Folio. By then, I was fully hooked.

4th- Most recent RPG purchase
The most recent RPG Product to grace my collection is the new Dungeons and Dragons Starter set. It is really nice and evokes the game that got me started in so many ways. And while I don't think it will replace Paizo's brilliant Pathfinder for my go-to fantasy RPG, it's a good product and great game regardless.

5th- Most Old School RPG owned
Ha! My collection is just that. I have books from my old AD&D days alongside the entire line form TSR's Marvel Superheroes and FASA's Star Trek RPG. By sheer age alone, I'd say the FASA Star Trek books are the oldest since they were released in 1982, but they entered my collection after the Marvel Superheroes RPG Box Set from 1984/5, which is in fact the first gaming product I bought of those still in my collection.

6th- Favorite RPG Never get to play
Without a doubt, Pendragon. I've read through the main rulebook 5 or 6 times and I love every word in it. It is the type of game I wish I wrote, but want much more to get to play. It's a tough game though, because if done correctly, lots of characters will die and the game will span generations. Which just adds to its awesomeness. It's just too big and involved for most players, or gamemasters for that matter.

7th- Most "Intellectual" RPG Owned
hmmmm.. This is a tricky one. By "intellectual" I'm going to go with a game that makes me think outside the box, or better yet, a game that makes you ask some tough questions. For this I have two answers. The first is a game by Luke Crane and Jared Sorenson called Freemarket. Besides some truly inspired gameplay, Freemarket makes you ask the question, what do you do if no one ever gets sick, gets old, or dies? And the other is my friend and Saturday Morning Games cohort, Jonathan's, game, Geasa. Like Fiasco, Geasa is GMless- some would say rudderless- game, but it is a great storytelling exercise with enough rules to make it interesting, but not so much as to pigeonhole you into a story structure.


8th- Favorite Character
For my friend Lucas' Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 challenge (which I aptly named Vecna's Knot for him) I played a goblin cook (rogue as far as class went) named Fester, hired by the party to keep them well fed on their travels. He was cantankerous, annoying, refused to do "roguey" things if they were looking, and was an expert with his kitchen knives. It was several days before the party realized he was using the same knives to kill as he did to cook- and even longer to realize he didn't clean them in between. But hey, kobold makes great "flavoring."

9th- Favorite Die / Dice Set
I would normally say it's some pretty FATE dice set or the special dice made for Pathfinder. But this year, I missed out on Origins Game Fair because my daughter, Jocelyn, was being born. My best friend picked up the Origins Commemorative Dice Set from Crystal Caste the morning she was born. Those hideous pink dice are my favorites. I will never use them, they went in Jocelyn's dice bag, but they are definitely my favorite.

10th- Favorite tie-in Novel / Game Fiction
Dragonlance. I'd go into more detail, but I did that already.

That's all for now, more as the week (and hopefully me RPGaDay continues).

~The Doc

Thursday, July 3, 2014

General Gamery: 30 years of Dragonlance

Today is Dungeons and Dragons day, with the release of the 5th edition of D&D, or D&D Next as it is called. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the long-running, ever-changing game system. But as much as I love the imagination engine that is the ampersand of doom- and more importantly to me, the vast, innumerable game systems that have been created as a result or in spite of it- there is one aspect of D&D that far outshines its Ruby anniversary for me. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of my favorite shared campaign world- Dragonlance.



A Bit of History

In the early 1980's, TSR had a dilemma. There were more than enough dungeons in its flagship game, but there wasn't exactly an abundance of dragons. But filling this need had eluded the small company to this point. Enter Tracy Hickman.

Based on some modules he had written for the company, Tracy was hired on as one of TSR's writers/line developers. While Tracy and his wife, Laura, made the move to Wisconsin, the seeds of Dragonlance were planted in their discussions. Upon his arrival, Tracy pitched their idea as a twelve module series- each one focusing on a different dragon. TSR entertained the idea, putting him in charge of what was then called Project Overlord, alongside TSR staffers like Roger Moore, Larry Elmore, and Douglas Niles.

The Project Overlord team eventually came to the conclusion that a series of novels would help to flesh out the world they were inadvertently developing, and while the higher-ups at TSR weren't exactly excited with the idea of novels, they nonetheless gave the green light, hired an author, and assigned Endless Quest editor Margaret Weis to edit the project. This was an expansive project for the company- not only modules and novels, but lead miniatures, board games, and eventually other support projects like art books, calendars, and even a DC Comics line would find their way into what was beginning to be called Dragonlance.

While the team worked on the finishing touches for the first module, DL1: Dragons of Despair, Weis and Hickman were finding that the original author didn't exactly see eye to eye with their shared vision. Reports are fuzzy as to the specifics, but it became apparent that the editing team were better off simply writing the first novel themselves. Despite the legends to the contrary, the Dragonlance team did not write that first novel based on their actual play sessions for Dragons of Despair. Instead, over a weekend, Weis and Hickman pounded out the prologue for the novel based on the Dragons of Despair module they had already completed. TSR liked it enough that they fired the author and set Weis and Hickman to the task of writing the book on their own.

After two years of writing, editing, and re-writes, TSR published the first Dragonlance novel, Dragons of Autumn Twilight. TSR didn't quite expect the demand, so they had to order a second printing just to make up for their initially small printing of the novel. But in a masterstroke, The first Dragonlance novel was published, followed soon after with two more novels to round out the Chronicles trilogy.

As the decades passed, TSR found success in novels as well as games, and Dragonlance became the first of its shared universes. Not only were modules written by many different teams of writers, but the novels themselves would have names like Douglas Niles, Jean Rabe, and Cam Banks grace their covers. While not all books were gems, even the bad Dragonlance books far outshone the miasma of drek that graced most sci-fi/fantasy shelves at the time. Over the years and dozens of books, the novels endured and like Robotech, became a multi-generational extravaganza.

TSR even launched a somewhat experimental card-based version of D&D called the SAGA system with the Fifth Age of Dragonlance as its basis. While the old guard of Dungeons and Dragons players seemed to balk at the SAGA rules, for me personally, this system opened my eyes to opportunities and ideas that D&D never attempted to create for me. And while I preferred Dragonlance's fourth age (the age that the Chronicles novels inhabited), I enjoyed the way the Fifth Age setting fit the rule system.

Eventually, Dragonlance gaming was updated to 3rd edition D&D by Sovereign Press (the company that would one day become Margaret Weis Productions). Under Sovereign Press' watchful eye, all ages of the Dragonlance world were updated to the D20 format and some of the best adventures for the game system found print.

All was not golden for Dragonlance, however. Despite great voice actors like Michael Rosenbaum and Kiefer Sutherland, a terrible animated movie was made of Dragons of Autumn Twilight. No, seriously, it was horrible.

Moving on.

Dragonlance was exceptional not only for the memorable characters, fully realized world, and world-spanning plotlines, but for the marriage of game to fiction in much the same manner that Forgotten Realms, Birthright, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, and Eberron would eventually follow.


A World Apart

The bulk of the Dragonlance novels are set on the continent of Ansalon on the world known as Krynn. Chronicles starts three centuries after an event called the Cataclysm had not only terrorized and reshaped the peoples and lands of Ansalon, but had taken Krynn's gods with it. Instead of fat, lazy, Tolkienesque halflings, Krynn had the fearless, childlike kender to romp alongside its disparate tribes of elves, mountain and hill dwarves, minotaur, ogres, goblins, dragons, a new race of dragon people called draconians, and all sorts of other peoples and monsters. Wizards were organized into small sects in the often hidden Towers of High Sorcery. An ancient knighthood struggled to hold onto its ancestral home in the land of Solamnia on the northern portion of the continent while fould armies of the Dragon Highlords massed to the west.

All the while, a small party of adventurers returned to their quaint home in the trees of a town called Solace after years seperately seeking any sign of the return of the old gods. Their escapades would lead to the greatest conflict Krynn had seen since the Cataclysm- the War of the Lance.

There's so much to love from this period in Krynn's history- and while the novels eventually spanned much of Krynn's history both before and after the War of the Lance- most readers relate to this time in particular. Like me, most readers started with the Chronicles series. The overarching plot alone would have pulled me in, but it was the well developed three dimensional characters that got me to stay. Krynn was filled with believable personalities. Perhaps it was the flaws- a reluctant leader cursed with self doubt, an overly ambitious wizard teetering over the edge of evil, an ancient dwarf preparing for his last great adventure, a party of adventurers wholly unprepared for the adventure that awaits them. Yeah. I'm sure that was it.

There's a lot of characters to love in Dragonlance. But I'm not going to talk about my favorite...because.. well.. he dies and it's kind of a big spoiler. This should surprise no one. My favorite character usually dies- Boromir, Ned Stark, seriously.. if they ever make a Dragonlance movie, I'll have to lobby for Sean Bean...but I digress. Let me talk instead of my favorite hero and villain that are not my fallen friend.

For a hero, I'll go with Gilthanas.

I can hear the groans already, but hear me out. Gilthanas is the spoiled elven prince, second son of Solostoran, Speaker of the Sun and ruler of the not quite high elves called the Qualinesti (think of Rivendell elves). When he is introduced, he is an arrogant ass, full of piss and vinegar and especially disapproval for his little sister's love for the half-elven leader of our heroes, Tanis. And eventually he falls in love with a young wild elf, Silvara. This changes his outlook greatly. Over the series, Gilthanas undergoes  massive growth as a  character and becomes quite the hero himself in his search for his lost love. There's a lot more to it, but I'm trying to be all un-spoilery. Character growth like that is rare in most fiction, let alone to the degree that Gilthanas changes.

Okay let's talk villains.

Lord Soth.

Bet you thought I was going to talk about Raistlin, didn't you? Look the wizard is a fine good, bad, good, bad guy. But I love fallen figures. And Soth fell harder than nearly anyone. Lord Soth was once a Solamnic Knight of the Rose, dedicated to chivalry, honor, and all those knightly virtues. Well, sort of. Soth wasn't exactly the nicest fellow and had.. well let's just call it a lapse of good judgement. This caused him no end of turmoil and despite his desire to atone, he would instead rise as one of the undead- a death knight, dark, bitter, and full of hatred for the living. Lord Soth eventually fell so hard that he ended up in Raven loft. Yeah. That guy.

There's only so much I can put into my little blog to gush about this world. There are elements of Krynn that stick with me, not only in games, but in writing, character development, heck I even have a Dragonlance tattoo.

To this day, Krynn has my favorite knighthood. More than Round Table knights, Bretonnian Knights, even Jedi Knights, I love the Solamnic Knights above all- from their structure (Knights of the Crown, Knights of the Sword, and the highest order, Knights of the Rose) to their design (Gothic fantasy meets fantastical Norse nobility with audacious Germanic mustaches) from their oath (in Solamnic, "My Honor is My Life") to their often tragic history.

Seriously, go out right now. Find Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Weis and Hickman. You'll thank me later.

Est Sularus Oth Mithas.