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[Let's Read] Dragonlance Campaign Setting (3.5)

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User
#1

Ah, Dragonlance, a grand setting with humble beginnings. The setting's creators, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, came up with the fictional world during a car trip, and were hired later by TSR to write adventures. Around this time there was plenty of information on dungeons in RPG sourcebooks, but not so much on Dragons. Hickman suggested a series of linked adventures, and the design team decided that a series of novels should accompany it.

And thus the Dragonlance Chronicles were born. The setting proved wildly popular, even beyond the Dungeons & Dragons fandom, earning a spot on the New York Times' Bestseller list. For a time it even shared a spotlight with the established Forgotten Realms as a popular setting.

Of course the series had its controversy as well. Many chided the original modules as railroady, the kender race proved a hit with disruptive Chaotic Stupid players, and the "update" to the setting's 5th Age and temporary abandonment of the D&D ruleset rivaled our modern Edition Wars in dividing the fanbase. But the world and its stories still holds a place in the hobby's history for being revolutionary for its time, examining what a world functioning under the D&D ruleset would be like, and popularizing the "epic journey to save the world" model as a campaign concept.

Love it or hate it, there are few other settings like Dragonlance.


The Dragonlance Campaign Setting is a 3.5 sourcebook, published by Wizards of the Coast in 2003. Technically a 1st-party book, it received no further official support, with the production of future sourcebooks delegated to Margaret Weis in charge of Sovereign Press. It was this book I was first introduced to the world of Dragonlance.

Introduction

Welcome, friend, to the world of Krynn. Step into the River of Time and let it carry you along its slow-moving current as it wends its way through the history of the continent of Ansalon. Be a part of that history, as you join the never-ending struggle between chaos and order. On Krynn, the Gods of Good and Evil war eternally, joined in the battle by mortal beings such as yourself and Krynn's true children-the dragons.

You may journey with wizards as they risk their lives to take the test that can grant them great power. You may quest with brave knights to prove their honor and worth or discover heroes in ordinary people who fight for their homes and loved ones. Your travels will take you through lands of mysterious ruins populated by terrifying creatures. You may fly on the backs of dragons in the service of your cause, be it good or evil.

The continent of Ansalon is a land of marvelous beauty with a rich and fascinating history. You can choose to fight on the side of good, serve the cause of evil, or work to maintain the balance of the world. You may restore lost knowledge to the people or search for powerful magic artifacts to aid your struggle. You will face the awesome power of enemy wyrms and soar the skies on the backs of dragons that serve your cause.

Welcome to the Dragonlance campaign.
The book's beginning gives an overview of Dragonlance and its major themes, along with some pertinent setting information. Basically the history of the world is divided into Five Ages: the Age of Starbirth, an era of prehistory when there were only Gods and souls creating the world; the Age of Dreams, a distant age of legend, rise and fall of the first empires, discovery of magic, birth of the mortal races, etc; the Age of Might, when the mighty Empire of Istar rose and fell in its zeal to cleanse the world of evil; the Age of Despair, begun when the wrath of the Gods brought about the Cataclysm and retreated from the world; and the Age of Mortals, the current age where the people now no longer need rely upon the Gods for magic, an era where five titanic Dragon Overlords reshaped the land to their whims. The last two Ages (Despair and Mortals) are the ones with the most in-game support and detail, both within living memory (the Age of Mortals began 30 years before the current date).

The setting takes place on the continent of Ansalon, which is on the planet of Krynn. Ansalon is located in the southern hemisphere and measures 1,300 miles west to east and 1,000 miles north to south. It was a large, unbroken landmass originally, but the Cataclysm at the end of the Third Age fractured it. Despite its relatively small size there are many unexplored regions, from monster-filled wilderness to inhospitable wastelands and mountain ranges. The continent of Taladas is far to the northeast of Ansalon, home to many of the same races, though the societies have progressed separately. The good-aligned metallic dragons claim the Dragon Isles to the north of Ansalon as their ancestral homeland, and almost all of them left Ansalon in a self-imposed exile during the Age of Despair.

There's also a short blurb on Krynn's races, but since they're part of Chapter One we'll skip that and talk about the Campaign.

Two themes are integral to Dragonlance. Epic Fantasy is a genre of high adventure, where the PCs take part in grand struggles and whose deeds pass into myth and legend. Even small adventures can have wider consequences down the line, and PCs who attain higher levels have the chance to make a living mark upon Krynn's history.

The other major theme is the Conflict of Good and Evil. Although Dragonlance uses the nine-fold Alignment axis, Good, Evil, and Balance (Neutrality) are the major cosmic forces. Neither can exist without the other, and even if one side appears victorious for long (such as in the Age of Might or Despair), the cosmic pendulum might swing to the other side. Individuals are chosen to champion the cause of moral forces, even in an unwitting role. But even then mortals can defy the gods and forge their own destinies, like Raistlin did in the Legends trilogy. Although Good and Evil are absolute forces, the workings of the world and the choices people make can redeem corrupt villains or even corrupt causes with good intent.

Libertad's Notes: This is what separates Dragonlance from many other settings, for both good and ill. While one could probably try running a "standard" D&D campaign of dungeon delvers, it isn't really designed for it. However, as evidenced by the Original Chronicles and Key of Destiny, it is a very friendly setting to world-saving heroics and PCs deciding the fate of Ansalon long-term. The game is a low-magic world, and although PCs encounter plenty of magic and monsters, a lot of the setting was designed to make the major events stand out that much more. There's no real magic item shops beyond spell components and scrolls/potions/wand stuff, as permanent magic items are supposed have their own legacies and stories behind them. Arcane magic is tightly regulated by the Wizards of High Sorcery for its destructive potential, although the mages of the remaining Tower of Wayreth have enough power to even repel a would-be Godling. Several countries are idyllic and go through periods of peace, only to be besieged by a hostile outside force for the PCs to protect them against (Silvanesti, Solamnia, Hylo). In the non-eventful times they're not really packed with adventure opportunity, sort of like the Shire in the Lord of the Rings.

Basically, Dragonlance is suited for a more epic, Tolkienish style of gameplay in comparison to settings like Eberron, where danger and intrigue lurks behind every corner and greed and glory are just as reasonable motivations as heroism. I would not describe it as a weakness so much as a quirk which distinguishes the setting style.



Dragonlance Campaign Setting Chapter One: Races

Now we start into the book proper. Here we look at the major (and some minor) races of Krynn and briefly into their personalities and culture.



The Humans are one of the three elder races of Krynn. Created by Gilean and the Gods of Balance, humans were the first race to be gifted with free will and are known for their variety and ambitiousness in contrast with their short lives. Generally humans are divided into the categories of "Civilized" (agricultural, urban and higher technology level) and "Nomadic" (hunter-gatherer, closer to nature spirits) humans, but even then these are more arbitrary categories. The Nomadic humans might be viewed as more primitive and barbarous, but have just as intricate histories and customs, and some even have their own great cities (the Khur in particular). Nomadic humans, however, are more suspicious of outsiders given that their homes traditionally did not have as much contact with other groups.

Prominent civilized human groups include the Abanisinians (frontier folk, have a history of turning to false gods), Ergothians (powerful nation of mariners in western Ansalon), Kharolians (southwest Ansalon, friendlier to Wizards due to close proximity to the Tower, keep extensive genealogical records), Solamnics (lawful good nation of chivalric knights), Nerakans (descendents of the ancient Istarans, live in Neraka and are the "bad guy" nation of the setting), and Nordmen (live in humid jungles of the north, known for their horses).

Prominent nomadic human groups include Abanisinian Plainsfolk (based off of real-world Great Plains Native Americans), the Khurish people (based off of nomadic Arab tribes), Nordmaarian Horselords (live in the plains of Nordmaar), Sea Folk (or Saifhumi, ply the waters of northeast Ansalon), the Ice Folk (far south of Ansalon, live in igloos and navigate tundras with giant wind-powered sleds), and Taman Busuk nomads (live in the mountains of Neraka, recruited into the Dragon Empire's armies during the Age of Despair). Nomads are also more likely to worship Chislev, goddess of nature.

All humans, both civilized and nomadic, speak Common and one regional dialect. There isn't much more to say about humanity as a whole without delving into the various ethnic groups. I might detail them later in Chapter Six: Geography of Ansalon.



The Dwarves are an industrious people who traditionally live in underground kingdoms. They were one of the races created when the Graygem of Gargath cracked in the Age of Dreams from Gnomish stock. Dwarves are proud of their facial hair, have extensive ties to family and clan, and are primarily Lawful Neutral (as opposed to Lawful Good in most settings). The primary dwarven kingdoms are Thorbadin and Thoradin, although there are scattered communities across Ansalon. Reorx, God of the Forge, is their most popular deity. "By Reorx's beard!" is a common saying uttered in dwarven halls.

Dwarves are further divided into mountain dwarves, hill dwarves, dark dwarves, and gully dwarves. Mountain dwarves are those clans who remained within Thorbadin. They include the Hylar (Highest), the oldest of the clans and are the nobles of the mountain dwarves; the Daewar (Dearest), a clan of proud warriors; and the Klar, a clan of hill dwarves trapped within Thorbadin when the realm was sealed off from the rest of the world. They were an oppressed underclass, allowed only most menial jobs and confined to impoverished sections of town, and their wiry beards and darting eyes gave them an undeserved reputation as madmen.

The Hill Dwarves are all of the Neidar (Nearest) clan. When the Cataclysm rocked the world, many dwarves living above Thorbadin rushed to the kingdom in desparate need of food. The kingdom did not have enough resources to care for them, and kept them out. This led to bitterness and hatred which erupted into the Dwarfgate Wars as the Neidar attempted to fight their way into Thorbadin, but failed. A people without a home, the Neidar lived among non-dwarven communities and in their own towns, nursing a longstanding grudge against their mountain dwarf brethren.

The wizard Fistandantalus, who fought on the Neidar side, betrayed them and created a magical cataclysm which killed thousands on both sides. Thus the overall dwarven hatred and distrust for wizards.

The Dark Dwarves are two clans of mountain dwarves who live deeper than others, completely in darkness. They are known for being evil and treacherous, and are much paler than others of their kind. The Theiwar (Thankless) clan became allergic to sunlight sometime around the Age of Dreams. They are very fair-skinned and have a knack for arcane magic. The Daegar (Deepest) clan were once noble mountain dwarves, but sided with rebel Theiwar and were banished with them to the deeper reaches.

Dark Dwarves have all the traits of PHB dwarves, except they have -4 Charisma, longer sight of Darkvision, racial bonuses on Hide, Listen and Move Silently checks, take penalties to rolls under bright sunlight, and have Rogue as a favored class. They’re definitely geared towards stealthier characters, but the light sensitivity is a big hindrance for most campaigns.

Which brings us to Gully Dwarves. They are of clan Aghar (Anguished), and are one of the 3 comic relief races of Dragonlance and thus hated by a lot of gamers. Basically gully dwarves are believed to be the result of gnome-dwarf interbreeding in the distant Age of Dreams, inheriting the worst traits of both. They earned their name for their poor status and living conditions.

Gully Dwarves live amid the ruins, sewers, and other places untouched by the other races of Ansalon. Their lives revolved around simple survival, of hunting and scrounging food most of the time. They are incredibly stupid, most being unable to count past 2 (which is anything more than 1 to them). They believe themselves to be abandoned by Reorx and thus worship no Gods. They're mostly Chaotic Neutral, having no code of rules beyond survival and not cared for by either side of Good or Evil. Instead they appeal to ancestral spirits they believe live in objects; a dead rat or lizard or wooden spoon might have wondrous powers (which don't exist) to a Gully Dwarf. They also only fight when backed into a corner, pleading piteously to have their lives spared. None of the other races of Ansalon like them, and are usually chased out of communities or forced to live in forgotten spaces of cities.

Gully Dwarves as a race are incredibly underpowered. They have +2 Dexterity and Constitution, but -4 Intelligence and Charisma. They receive bonuses on stuff gully dwarves are good at (survival checks, diplomacy checks to convince enemies not to harm them), but they receive penalties against fear effects and Intimidation rolls for their cowardice. Gully dwarves make poor thieves and arcane casters due to their slow speed and intelligence/charisma penalties (plus kender have more relevant bonuses). They're not good melee brutes due to their small size, and overall lose much more than they gain in terms of racial traits. There's nothing a gully dwarf can do that an existing race can't do better.



The Elves of Krynn are one of the three original mortal races, created by the good-aligned Gods of Light. As a people they have long lifespans and seek to live in harmony with nature. In addition to low-light vision and the common PHB elven racial traits, Dragonlance elves have Elfsight, which grants Darkvision up to 30 feet.

Qualinesti Elves live in the forest nation of Qualinost. They tend to have better relations with other races in comparison to their more xenophobic kin (+1 bonus on Diplomacy and Sense Motive), but even then they look down upon them as crude and unsophisticated. They're much more indivualistic, and their government is run by a Senate which elects their ruler, the Speaker of the Sun. Twice they had to leave their homeland, most recently after a battle with Beryl the Green Dragon Overlord turned their capital city to ruin. Like the Silvanesti they are a people living outside their ancestral home.

Kagonesti Elves, also known as Wilder Elves, live in the forests of Southern Ergoth. They are a technologically primitive, hunter-gatherer society and believe that every aspect of the world possesses a spirit. They decorate their bodies with feathers, paint, tattoos, leather fringe, and other accessories for symbolic meanings (family history, honoring spirits and granting good fortune, etc). They persevered through Ergothian incursions, the depredations of the Dragonarmies, the Dragon Overlord Gellidus, and even enslavement at the hands of Qualinesti and Silvanesti. This has made them resentful of humans and other elves for constant attacks on their way of life.

Oh, did I mention that the "high" elves in this setting are total dicks? Yeah, every negative stereotype about elves in Tolkienish fantasy has been done tenfold in Dragonlance.

Kagonesti have +2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence and Charisma, +1 bonus on Knowledge (Nature) and Survival, and are proficient with the longspear instead of the longsword. Their favored class is Ranger.

Silvanesti Elves are isolationist, arrogant people who are extremely racist against everyone else. They are the most beautiful of the elves and have one of the most advanced societies in terms of scholarly and magical might, but their cold aloofness makes it hard for others to appreciate this. They view half-elves as abominations, Kagonesti as savage children, and Qualinesti as "poor, uncultured cousins." They have one of the most strict caste systems in Ansalon, where a person's House determines their station and occupation in life. They traditionally lived in the forest nation of Silvanesti in southeast Ansalon, but after a joint Dark Knight/minotaur invasion drove them out they've been forced to live in the arid regions of Khur and the Plains of Dust. They are strongly lawfully-aligned.

Silvanesti are aligned with good, but they believe so highly in their own purity that goodness can be taken to extremes.
Racism: an extreme form of Good.

In terms of game stats they have standard elf stuff, but +2 Dexterity and Intelligence, and -2 to Constitution and Charisma. They have +1 on Knowledge (Arcana) and Spellcraft checks.

Half-elves are treated as outcasts by both humans and elves. For a long time elven-human relations were not very good, and most children between the two post-Age of Might were borne out of rape by human bandits. As such, half-elves grow up unwanted and tend to be more likely to reject society and authority. They too have Elfsight of 30 foot darkvision like their elven parents.



Sea Elves live in Krynn’s many oceans. They are separated into two groups, the Dargonesti (Deep Elves), who stick to deep water and the Dimernesti (Shoal Elves), who live closer to the surface and coastlines near coral reefs. They are very tall, ranging six to seven feet on average, and have webbed fingers and toes and gill slits on their necks. Dargonesti have many deep-sea citadels and a glorious kingdom, Watermere, while the Dimernesti mostly have small family units. Also, Dargonesti have such a fearsome reputation as aquatic warriors that many sailors fear them more than sharks!
Sea elves of both varieties have standard elf traits, plus they can swim as fast as a human walks on land and can breathe underwater and sense their depth intuitively. They are instead proficient with the trident, net and longspear, and while they can live on land they dehydrate quickly and suffer penalties on rolls if they don’t soak in water for an hour or two. Dargonesti can change shape into a porpoise, Dimernesti into a sea otter. Dargonesti also get some spell-like abilities which aid in concealment and misdirection (darkness, obscuring mist, blur, and dancing lights). The traits are very flavorful and make the sea elves the most unique of the bunch.



Gnomes are the tinkers and inventors of Krynn. Originally they were human worshipers of Reorx changed into gnomes by said deity for their arrogance. Today gnomes pursue all manner of scientific innovation in their home of Mount Nevermind, a dormant volcano. The gnomes are the most technologically advanced civilization in Ansalon, having mastered the secrets of steam power, electricity, and intricate mechanical clockwork devices. Their use among the other races is limited, as gnomes love to experiment just to experiment and most of their contraptions are needlessly complex and subject to unexpected quirks. Gnomes view this as the inevitable consequence of progress, that a project’s failure can give rise to an insightful new lead for further development.

An important aspect of Gnomish culture is the Life Quest. It is a singular goal a gnome dedicates his life to achieving, more important than anything else. It can range from all manner of subjects, although all of them relate to the pursuit and expansion of knowledge. A gnome who completes his or her Life Quest is said to earn an honored position by Reorx in the afterlife, although gnomes who complete 3 or more Life Quests are exiled from the community for making everyone else look bad. On that note, gnomes of evil alignment have a tendency to be literally catapulted out of their communities; gnomish cities also use catapults as a means of transportation in lieu of elevators and stairs.

Gnomes tend to be very talkative and obsessed with their studies, often getting overexcited and running words together to express their thoughts at the moment before they’re lost. They’re capable of speaking and listening to others at the same time, and conversations with other races tends to be a frustrating affair for both parties.

Mechanics-wise gnomes have +2 Dexterity and Intelligence but -2 to Strength and Wisdom (the archetypical absent-minded professor). They also gain a bonus on alchemy checks and a single craft, profession, and knowledge skill depending upon their Guild. Intense dedication to Life Quests has made them strongly determined, granting them a +2 bonus on Will Saves.

There are also “mad” gnomes, who do not have the gnomish inspiration for tinkering or the passion for Life Quests. They tend to be outcasts or pitied, but they’re closer to humans in mentality and speech. They lose their Intelligence and Wisdom modifiers, along with Will Saves, but they gain +2 on Disable Device and Open Locks since they’re skilled at building smaller, more compact, and more reliable machinery.

A lot of gamers hate gnomes along with kender and gully dwarves, but I honestly like them. Their behavior is not going to be disruptive to parties if role-played out, and their advanced technology provides Dungeon Masters the excuse to insert steampunk and mad science stuff into their sessions without it jarring the rest of the setting.



Oh boy, Kender. Basically kender are the children of the races of Krynn. They approach life and new things with intense curiosity, often without regard to their own safety. Every day is a new opportunity for adventure, every locked door a beckoning to find out what’s behind it, every neat-looking object to be fondled and absent-mindedly forgotten in their pocket without any regard to its original owner.

On that last note, this bit of Kender behavior is known as “borrowing.” Hickman and Weis were uncomfortable with having a traditional greedy thief character in their story, so instead they made Tasslehoff Burrfoot and the kender. When a kender finds something cool, they appropriate something which captures their eye. The concept of private property and privacy are alien to their minds, and they get so easily distracted they constantly forget what they took. They resent accusations of thievery, and have a handy list of excuses for why someone’s item ended up in their possession (such as “I was keeping it safe in my possession. You never know when somebody might steal it.”) It’s implied that this behavior is inherent to their race and not the result of cultural conditioning, meaning that any attempts to teach them will be fruitless. Kender also don’t really feel fear, although they understand that certain behavior might result in their deaths. The text also waffles between the Kender being likable and getting along with everyone to them being common pests who drive people crazy and are chased away all the time.

Mechanics-wise they have +2 Dexterity but -2 Strength and Wisdom. They’re immune to fear and intimidation and gain +2 on Spot, Sleight of Hand, and Open Lock skills (the latter two they can make untrained). They’re also great at pissing people off and gain a +4 racial bonus on taunt checks. Taunt is a new application of the bluff skill where a successful check inflicts -1 on attack rolls and Armor Class. They’re also bad at concentration, making them poor spellcasters (-4 on Concentration checks).

The problem with Kender is that a lot of players view them as the perfect excuse to engage in douchebag behavior, such as stealing items from fellow PCs for themselves (despite the fact that kender don’t care for an objects monetary/practical value). The 3rd Edition fluff text doesn’t really help, as the excuses come off more as deliberate lies when caught in the act. Overall, Kender make for great thief characters.

There is also Afflicted Kender, who were traumatized by Malystryx’s devastation of their home and lost their Kender innocence. They lose their fear immunity, but suffer no concentration penalties or Bluff bonuses, and have +2 to Climb, Hide, Jump, and Move Silently checks. Overall I’d say that they’re an improvement over “true” Kender for the skill bonuses (which ironically make them even better thieves).



Centaurs live in Ansalon’s plains, savoring life’s simple pleasures in hedonistic bliss. They are organized into nomadic herds and speak an archaic version of common (“thou” and “thy” instead of “you” and “your”). They traditionally lived in Abanasinia but migrated south into Qualinesti and then throughout the forests of Ansalon. They are very vain, and decorate their bodies with jewelry, flowers, and other aesthetically pleasing baubles.

Centaurs have a lot of powerful traits and racial hit die, effectively making them higher level characters even before they take their first class. Monster PCs in 3rd Edition use a Level Adjustment system, where abilities grant effective “shadow” levels on top of existing ones in addition to Hit Dice monsters of their race have. Centaurs are considered 6th level before they gain any class levels. Centaurs are fast and have some good ability modifiers (+8 Strength, +4 Dexterity, +4 Constitution, -2 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom), but that’s all they really have going for them. In practice the Level Adjusment system makes centaurs and other monsters underpowered. Their quadrupedal form and large size makes it awkward for them to maneuver in a lot of places, and they don’t gain any unique class features or spellcasting ability (and what caster levels they do gain will be outclassed by the normal races).
 

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User
#2


Another of the “monstrous” races, Draconians are a Dragonlance staple. In the Age of Despair the Dragon Empire used an unholy ritual on the eggs of metallic dragons to turn the hatchlings into humanoid dragon-people. They deliberately kept the female eggs unhatched to control the population, who served in the Empire’s military forces. A Draconian general by the name of Kang managed to retrieve the female eggs and defected, forming the nation of Teyr. Due to their history of conquest and subjugation, they are disliked by many of the races of Krynn, and even the Empire’s later incarnations (Knights of Takhisis, Knights of Neraka) still view them as servants which need to be controlled.

There are five breeds of “normal” draconians, but only two of them are deemed suitable for PC use: the Baaz (created from brass dragon eggs), and the Kapak (created from copper dragon eggs). Baaz are brutish and have a penchant for drinking and revelry, partying as hard as they fight. Given their military background their communities tend to adopt such trappings (including military slang and jargon), and their names derive from the Nerakan language as opposed to Draconic. Kapaks were bred as scouts and assassins, and they shared a fierce rivalry with the Baaz as both groups tried to prove themselves to higher-ranking human officers (although in battling together against a hostile world has made these tensions almost forgotten in recent years). Kapaks have glands in their mouths which exude poison (for the men) or saliva which can heal wounds (the women).

Draconians also suffer “death throes” when they die, deliberately designed to inconvenience enemy troops. Baaz’s bodies solidfy, trapping any sharp weapons inside, while Kapaks burst into a pool of acid.

Mechanics-wise both draconian breeds are of the Dragon type, death throes, have bite and claw natural attacks, immunity to disease of all kinds, vestigial wings which grant them limited flight, run as a bonus feat, spell resistance, and the ability to survive on 1/10th the normal food and drink thanks to their low metabolisms. They both have 2 racial hit dice and +1 and +2 Level Adjustment for Baaz and Kapaks respectively. Overall they’re quite a solid choice, monster-wise, as they both have a lot of useful abilities and their Dragon type grants them several immunities. As long as you stick to their strengths (don’t be a spellcaster!) they should keep up with their fellow humanoid PCs.





Ogres and ogrekin are one of the three elder races, this one favored by the Gods of Darkness. The ogres in the Age of Dreams built the first civilization and empire as they enslaved the humans through superior might. Back then they were physically and mentally gifted, yet lacking in mercy and compassion. Some Ogres learned of compassion and were exiled before the empire’s fall, becoming the Irda (or High Ogres), while ogres warped by the Graygem of Gargath became minotaurs. Eventually the ogres of the empire were cursed for their wicked ways, transformed into the huge, ugly, and brutish creatures of today.

The Irda escaped this curse, dedicated to Good and living in a remote island off the coast of Ansalon. Irda prefer to spend their time in solitude, disguising themselves as other races when forced to interact with them. All Irda still feel the pangs of evil due to their ogre blood, and thus adopted strict regimens of self-control (and are also vegetarians to further reject ogre cultural norms). They are blue-skinned and extraordinarily graceful and beautiful in their undisguised forms. In recent years the Irda rediscovered the Graygem and accidentally broke it, releasing the evil primordial god Chaos into the world and thus beginning the Chaos War, an act that fills them with shame and regret.

Mechanics-wise Irda are Medium size, have +2 Intelligence and Charisma but -2 Constitution, low-light vision, can take the form of a humanoid creature Small to Large size 3 times a day (duration is indefinite), and can cast several minor level 0 spells as spell-like abilities once per day each (detect magic, flare, ghost sound, dancing lights, light, and mage hand). They have a +2 Level Adjustment, which to me is too high (I don’t think that they deserve a Level Adjustment at all, personally).

Traditional, or “Fallen,” Ogres are a cruel and evil race who believe that might makes right. They tend to be warlike scavengers and raiders who prey on each other and the other races of Krynn, who they feel wronged by historically in different ways (they fought dwarves over territory, human slaves overthrew their empire, elves are the children of the Gods of Light and thus the enemy, etc). Most of them live in the nations of Kern and Blode, living among the ruins of their once-proud empire and doing their best to emulate what little they remember of its ways.

Ogres are effectively Level 6 before adding class levels. They are pretty much geared towards melee roles, having a massive Strength and Constitution bonus (+10 and +4) but penalties to almost all other ability scores (-2 Dexterity, -4 Intelligence and Charisma). They are Large Size and have increased melee reach in combat but nothing in the way of racial bonuses to skills, saves, or anything else in the way of special traits. Overall they’re kind of a boring option.

Half-ogres have ogre and human blood, often rejected by both societies. The ogres for being “soft and weak,” the humans who suspect them of being inherently violent and evil. Half-ogres tend to have mixed attitudes towards both races, alternatively rejecting and accepting one or both societies. Most other races aren’t fond of them, except for kender who keep an open mind. They are naturally inclined towards the adventuring life, welcome in few places.

Mechanics-wise they are Medium size (but very tall around 7 feet), have +4 Strength and +2 Constitution but -2 Intelligence and Charisma. They have a +1 natural armor bonus and low-light vision, but nothing else. They have +1 Level Adjustment, which is too high when you compare them to the minotaurs who don’t even have one. As a race Half-ogres feel bland, nothing much beyond “outcasts.”

Minotaurs are a seafaring race and are most prominent in eastern Ansalon. Their society is militaristic, holding the ideals of honor, bravery, and physical and mental strength as highest virtues. They are strongly lawfully-aligned with a tendency towards evil due to their worship of Sargonnas (god of vengeance). Their empire is a chain of islands across the Blood Sea, with the two largest being Mithas and Kothas which contain the majority of their population. Minotaurs make natural adventurers as the pursuit of glory through danger and violence lines up with their societal ideals. Many minotaurs sold their services as mercenaries in many of Ansalon’s wars, and their expansive expeditions of the seas of eastern Ansalon make them a well-traveled people.

They also have an annual Great Circus in the capital, where minotaur contestants have their skills tested in martial gladiatorial combat, chariot racing, and other risky physical activities to the delight of crowds.

Minotaurs are Medium size with +4 Strength but -2 Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma. They have exceptionally thick hides (+2 Armor Class) and horns as natural weapons which do more damage in a charge. They can gain the Scent quality by taking it as a feat, allowing them to detect nearby hidden opponents, and +2 on Intimidate, Swim, and Use Rope checks. And no Level Adjustment, and overall a solid race, one which was popular among my players who liked to play bruisers. They gain a lot more stuff than the poor half-ogres.

And that’s it for races!

Thoughts so far: I have mixed feelings about this chapter. On the one hand Dragonlance does a great job of balancing the line between cliché stock fantasy tropes and applying a new spin on them. The variety of subraces for the main groups, such as the dwarven clans, is well-done. The presence of monstrous races as character options, plus their usability in certain realms on Ansalon, is a neat addition as well.

On the other hand, the races are not balanced against each other. Some races are clearly better choices than others, while some have stats which box them into a specific and narrow class role. The Gully Dwarf can’t really do anything good which isn’t highly situational, and the “monstrous” races overall have too high Level Adjustments.

Next time, Chapter Two: Classes & Feats!
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#3
Nice one. Overall, it seems they reduced the elf racism a bit compared to 2e - or is genocide as a common practice still in?

Also, I still don't buy the kender: I'm sure that after the city guard cut of his second hand as well, a kender will understand that taking stuff other people have on their person or in their homes is a bad idea. Even if they don't understand why it pisses everybody off.
 

Imban

Registered User
Validated User
#4
Mechanics-wise Irda are Medium size, have +2 Intelligence and Charisma but -2 Constitution, low-light vision, can take the form of a humanoid creature Small to Large size 3 times a day (duration is indefinite), and can cast several minor level 0 spells as spell-like abilities once per day each (detect magic, flare, ghost sound, dancing lights, light, and mage hand). They have a +2 Level Adjustment, which to me is too high (I don’t think that they deserve a Level Adjustment at all, personally).
If you're using the rewritten version in Races of Ansalon, which lets them use Change Shape to become Monstrous Humanoids or Giants, they're pretty great; you can go around as a Aarakocra (90' flight, somewhat dubious since they're from another game world), Cave Troll (40' move, Large size, 3 natural attacks, dazing blow, improved grab, pounce, rake, rend), Gargoyle (60' flight, 4 natural attacks), or Phthisic (30' move, Large size, 3 natural attacks, Int-damaging bite) all the time.

If you aren't, uh, you can pretend to be an Avariel but with worse stats and 1 less level adjustment? Also dubious since they're from another game world.
 
#5
The minotaur race makes for a cool character. You can either do the honorable evil character, or the honorable pirate, sort of cliche, but it works. Most of the time, I take a level in mariner for flavor (just my personal opinion), but this character can show up just about anywhere in any era (well at least after the Cataclysm).
 

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User
#8


Dragonlance Campaign Setting Chapter Two, Part One: Classes & Feats

This chapter overviews the existing Player’s Handbook classes and how they fit (or don’t fit) in Dragonlance, as well as some new core classes, prestige classes, and feats.

Barbarians are not much different; they number among nomadic humans, Kagonesti elves, and ogres. They are warriors skilled in wilderness survival and tend to revere the three nature deities or practice various forms of animism and ancestor worship (although most aren’t devoutly religious).

Bards are the historians and folklorists of Krynn, keeping the memory of legends alive by incorporating their deeds into song and poetry. They are common among any race who practices musical and oral traditions, and their magic is ambient magic like that of sorcerers. As such, they can only cast spells in the Fifth Age onwards, and cannot cast healing spells at all because those are they exclusive province of the Gods.

Clerics are the worshipers of the 21 Gods of Light, Balance, and Darkness. No true Cleric serves an abstract cause, philosophy, or false deity. Clerics who don’t worship a deity cannot cast spells or turn undead. The gods of Krynn created the world and are the original source of all magical power. Additionally, every holy symbol is a Medallion of Faith, an outward sign of their devotion. Without the medallion the Cleric cannot cast or prepare spells higher than 3rd level. Additionally, they can be used to create other Medallions for new Clerics, even those of another deity (although good clerics can’t create medallions for evil deities and vice versa). Secondly, any attempts to forcibly remove a medallion from a Cleric’s neck deals 2d4 points of divine damage to the aggressor.


Druids are specialized priests of nature, worshiping either Habbakuk (neutral good deity of the circle of life), Chislev (neutral deity of nature itself), or Zeboim (chaotic evil deity of wrath and the sea), although the sourcebook Holy Order of the Stars reveals that druids can also worship Morgion (neutral evil deity of disease, decay, and pestilence). Druids do not need a Medallion of Faith, and they are most common among nomadic humans, centaurs, and Kagonesti elves.

Fighters are not much different than in other settings except that it mentions that most members of the 3 major Knighthoods have levels in this class (Paladins don’t really exist on Krynn.)

Monks are rare and isolated, sticking to self-sufficient communities in their pursuit of enlightenment. Most monks on Krynn are Lawful Good or Lawful Neutral and worship Majere (god of wisdom), part of a sect called Claren Elian. Monks are most common among humans, half-elves, and minotaurs.

Paladins are normally unavailable, as the Knights of Solamnia already fill their role aesthetically in the setting. However, the text mentions that the DM might allow them for distinguished champions of one of the Gods of Light (such as Kiri-Jolith). If they’re allowed they need to worship a deity to gain spells.

Rangers are those people who explore the wild reaches of Ansalon. They must worship one of the deities of nature to gain spells. New thing, they can choose organizations instead of monsters for their favored enemies. Of course, the examples provided are very prominent and iconic examples, such as the Knights of Neraka or the Order of the White Robes.

Rogues are thieves, swindlers, highwaymen, and others who make their way through life via underhanded means. Most of the new stuff talks about “Handlers,” Kender rogues, and how they differ from traditional thieves (basically nothing, except that they take stuff regardless of monetary value and forget to return it).


Sorcerers, also known as Primal Sorcerers, are arcane asters who can cast their spells without relying upon the Moons of Magic. Basically the world of Krynn was created with ambient magic, and a sorcerer extends their awareness into their surroundings to tap into this energy. Their art is called “Primal Sorcery” in comparison to the more focused “High Sorcery” of the Wizards. Primal Sorcery is the oldest form of arcane magic, but its influence waned among the mortal races when the three Gods of Magic helped create the Orders of High Sorcery. When the Graygem was cracked and summoned Chaos into the world, the levels of primal magic increased so that mortals could once again tap into it. Sorcerers do not derive their powers from bloodlines, in comparison to traditional D&D.

Wizards are arcane casters who draw their spells from one of the three Moons of Magic. One does not need to belong to the Orders of High Sorcery in order to be a Wizard. In fact, many hedge magicians ply minor spells without coming into contact with them, although wizards of sufficient power (can cast 3rd level or higher spells) are required by the Order to take the Test of High Sorcery and declare allegiance to one of the three factions (White, Red, or Black Robes) or risk being branded a renegade and hunted down. The Knights of Neraka boast a high number of renegade Wizards among their number in the Knights of the Thorn, and they derive their spells from all three Moons; such wizards are called the “Gray Robes” by some. Wizardry is a respected art among the elves and Irda, and Theiwar dark dwarves contain many among their number.

In regards to NPC Classes, Commoners, Experts, and Warriors are available and otherwise the same. Adepts do not exist, for magic is a rare and wonderful gift in Dragonlance, while the Aristocrat class has a PC variant known as the Noble.

On that note, we have two new core classes: the Mystic and the Noble.



The Mystic is basically a divine sorcerer, capable of drawing upon divine magic without worshiping a deity. Mysticism was also re-introduced into the world with the release of Chaos. A mystic awakens to their magic via a process of introspection and self-discovery. They are a very diverse group, from necromancers to divinatory seers. A mystic can still worship a deity, but their spells are independent of said deity’s approval.

Mechanics-wise, mystics are much like clerics except that they’re not proficient with heavy armor and can’t turn undead, and they learn and cast spells much in a manner of a sorcerer. Instead of praying every day and choosing spells to prepare, they gain spells spontaneously upon leveling up, which they cast multiple times per day with spell slots exactly like a sorcerer. The Mystic can choose one cleric domain, gaining all its benefits and learning the spells as spells known. Mystics with the Sun domain can turn undead.

Overall this is a good, solid class in both flavor and mechanics. They can cast spells more often than Clerics, but they’re less versatile overall in that they’re more or less stuck with their spells known.



Nobles are the members of society’s upper class, be they ancestral lineages of regents and kings or even wealthy chieftains. Societies with fluid and extremely egalitarian social structures do not have people of the noble class, as one must be born into nobility in order to take the class (1st level). I feel that this is limiting. The noble is sort of a generic “leader with influence” class, and can accommodate a lot of things.

In terms of game mechanics, nobles are a poor man’s Bard. There’s nothing they can’t do a Bard can’t do better and with spells. They have average BAB, good Reflex and Will Saves, a robust skill list incorporating all the “social” and knowledge ones, and good proficiencies (simple and martial weapons, light armor, shields).

Their class features are lackluster: Bonus Class Skill grants one cross-class skill to the list, while Favor is an open-ended d20 roll against a DC to call in a service (DC 10 for simple stuff, DC 25 for dangerous and illegal favors), and favors which can circumvent adventure plots always fail. A noble gains a static bonus to the roll every few levels. Inspire Confidence is a limited per-day ability which grants bonuses to rolls for allies (bards can do this) for 5 rounds, while Inspire Greatness is largely the same as the bard’s except it grants bonuses to all saving throws and also lasts 5 rounds and is gotten 2 levels later. Coordinate grants additional bonuses for aid another checks every couple levels (+7 at 20th level), and that’s it.

The Noble is an unnecessary and underpowered class whose intended role can be done better by Bards and Paladins. If you want a noble PC, make it a backstory thing while being a Bard or Fighter or whatnot.


Prestige Classes

This section divides Prestige Classes into two groups: the first covers classes which are representative of Dragonlance’s most prominent organizations, while the second covers more generic archetypes. We’ll cover the organization PrCs first.



The Knights of Solamnia are an old and respected order responsible for many of Krynn’s greatest heroes, and serve as the ruling class of the nation of Solamnia. They are bound by the oath “Est Sularus Oth Mithas,” or “My Honor is My Life,” and seek to defend the weak and fight against Evil. During the Age of Despair the nation of Solamnia went through societal upheaval as peasants blamed them for the Cataclysm and overthrew many of their holds. Many Knights during this time abandoned their principles, either giving up their codes or following the letter of the law at the expense of its spirit, but they regained their honor after fighting valiantly against the forces of Takhisis in the War of the Lance. They are Lawful Good and revere the Gods of Light, especially Paladine and Kiri-Jolith. They are split into three major groups, and thus 3 Prestige Classes: the Knights of the Crown, Sword, and Rose.

The Knights of Solamnia are a hierarchal organization, meaning that in order to join the Sword you must have been accepted into the Crown, while for the Rose you must already be a Sword. This applies to the Prestige Classes as well, meaning that if you want to be a Sword of Rose you pretty much have to plan everything about your character from level 1. For example, Knight of the Rose can be taken no less than 10th character level, as you need 3 levels in Sword, 1 level in Crown, have Base Attack Bonus +8, cast 2nd level divine spells, among other things. As Cleric and Sword don’t grant full BAB progression, you need to make up those other 6 BAB points with 6 class levels. And that’s not counting the role-playing requirements and tests of moral character!

Knights of the Crown are the first tier and embody the virtues of honor and obedience. The class focuses around tough, heavily-armored fighters, with abilities which grant bonuses on initiative rolls, resistance and immunity to fear effects, heroic resolve which temporarily boosts physical ability scores, and treating heavy armor as medium armor for enhanced mobility. Their 10th level capstone ability grants them a heroic valor (combat buff spell) once per day and bonuses on all saving throws. They’re the “tanks” of the Knights.

Knights of the Sword are the warriors who fight to defend truth and justice, composed of clerics, crusaders, and are the religious arm of the knights. In order to enter must be able to cast divine spells and pass several tests (single combat against an evil worthy opponent, tests of wisdom, generosity, and courage, a journey of at least 500 miles, etc). As a class they can smite evil, turn undead, and gain enhanced caster levels as the god Kiri-Jolith grants them divine power. Their 10th level capstone ability grants them the ability to treat their weapons as holy and cast holy aura (protective spell from evil creatures’ attacks ) once per day. They’re sort of like a Paladin-lite class, but with full casting progression.

Knights of the Rose are the highest tier and leaders of the Knights, embodying the principles of wisdom and justice. They gain leadership-related abilities and bonuses to allies in tasks, along with full casting progression and some divination spell-like abilities reflecting their judgment and adherence to the Oath and Measure. Their capstone ability makes them a living embodiment of all the Knighthood stands for, and gains complete immunity to harmful compulsion spells and can cast foresight (preternatural awareness against all threats) once per day. Overall a good class, although the excessive multi-classing to get it can be a real chore.

Overall the Knight prestige classes were too clunky to be used by my own group, who instead opted for playing Paladins while retaining the same flavor. A later sourcebook Knightly Orders of Ansalon split them up into independent classes and revising them to be friendlier entries to classes other than Fighter and Cleric, and dispensed with the Tests for entry, instead being a role-playing thing determined by individual groups and DMs.



The Knights of Neraka, formerly the Knights of Takhisis, were formed by Ariakan, son of Emperor Ariakas of the now-fallen Dragon Empire. After being held and then released as a prisoner of war by the Solamnic, he learned much of their traditions and structure and decided to replicate it, albeit this time dedicated to Takhisis/Tiamat. The Knights of Takhisis were devoted to bringing all of Ansalon (and eventually the world) under their goddess’ heel, but after her death they became a more secular organization when mystics after many of their leaders mastered said magic during the War of Souls. The Knights are guided by 3 principles: the Vision, their ultimate goal of continental domination of Ansalon; the Blood Oath, the swearing of one's submission and life to the Knighthood (and formerly Takhisis when she lived); and the Code, a complex set of laws and rules for how the Knights should conduct themselves in relation to others.

Now known as the Knights of Neraka, they are split into 3 orders: the Knights of the Lily, the backbone of the order and their warriors; the Knights of the Skull, mystics specialized in intelligence-gathering and security purposes; and the Knights of the Thorn, sorcerers and renegade Wizards specializing in divination and cosmic awareness. Unlike the Knights of Solamnia one can take the Prestige Classes independently. For example, a Knight of the Thorn needs no levels in Skull or Lily. All Knights must be Lawful Evil, and gnomes, kender, and draconians are barred from entry (draconians are viewed as lowly servants).

The Knight of the Lily are a warrior PrC which grants Sneak Attack damage, resistance and immunity to fear effects, bonus against mind-affecting spells, armored mobility like a Knight of the Crown, and their 10th level capstone ability makes them immune to becoming flat-footed or surprise unless they and every other Knight of the Lilly within 100 feet is. Overall it’s not a very powerful class, as its abilities are too back-loaded and small to matter at higher levels, and the sneak attack progresses too slowly to add much damage.

The Knight of the Skull is a divine caster, gaining full progression except at 1st level, can smite good-aligned enemies, discern lies and rebuke undead (all of which are front-loaded in the first 3 levels), and at 10th level treats all weapons they wield as unholy. The class has the least amount of unique features of the Knights, but since they only sacrifice one caster level than they would as a Mystic they’re not losing anything.

The Knight of the Thorn are known as “gray robes” for their ash-colored garments. They are the pre-eminent organization of arcane spellcasters in Ansalon outside the Orders of High Sorcery, and as such are enemies of all three Orders. They are seers who use magic to learn how every person and even fits into their order’s designs.

Entry as a pure sorcerer/wizard is impossible, as a Thorn Knight needs a good base Fortitude Save (+4) and proficiency in all martial weapons and heavy armor. However, they more than make up for it with full casting progression, lower arcane spell failure while wearing armor (maximum of -20% at 8th level), automatically learning the augury (yes/no divination spell), divination, and commune spells at certain levels along with the ability to cast one more divination spell per day, one additional divination spell known or learned into their spellbook at each level, the ability to channel touch spells through their weapons, and at 10th level once per day can add their caster level as a bonus to a single d20 roll. Overall they gain a lot of good abilities, and their flavor is cool, too!



The Legion of Steel is the third major knightly order. They are the youngest of the three, formed after the Chaos War by Steel Brightblade and former Solamnic and Nerakan Knights disillusioned with their old orders. The Legion of Steel is more populist and working-class, allowing anybody to join regardless of race or social status, and they are organized into semi-independent cells across Ansalon instead of a formal hierarchy. Instead of a written code they follow an orally-spoken ideal known as Sara’s Legacy, which teaches to stand against injustice, gain strength through knowledge, to have the courage to do what is right, and help their communities.

As a prestige class they are very easy to qualify for: you must not be of evil alignment and easy to hit base attack and saving throw requirements, along with some ranks in Bluff and Diplomacy. It’s a 3-level prestige class which grants you Legion Knowledge (like Bardic Knowledge), 2 Favored Enemies (enemies of the Legion which include evil dragons, the other Knighthoods, and some monstrous races), bonus on interaction rolls with working-class and poor people, and an apprentice at 3rd level is works exactly as a cohort like the Leadership feat. It is supplementary to any existing cohorts.

This would be a weak class were it not for the apprentice, which can effectively be a 2nd PC for the player to control.



The Wizards of High Sorcery are one of the most venerable, powerful, and feared organizations in Ansalon. Back during the Age of Dreams the only mages were Scions, primal sorcerers and mystics; during the Second Dragon War they fought on the side of the elves and unleashed devastating magic in the battle. This overwhelming power killed many of the dragons, but countless innocents died in the crossfire. The three deities Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari realized that such power needs guidance and order to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again, and they assumed new mantles as the Gods of Magic and taught the Scions to channel their magic through the Moons. These Scions learned the arts of wizardry and formed the Order of High Sorcery, creating five Towers to help in the teaching and accumulation of magical knowledge.

The three orders are thus: the White Robes, good-aligned devotees of Solinari who are dedicated to using their magic to eliminating suffering and promoting good works; the Red Robes, the most numerous of the orders and the neutral-aligned devotees of Lunitari who encourage a balance between Good and Evil; and the Black Robes, who believe that magic should be pursued without moral or ethical restraints and have a Social Darwinist “only the most powerful mages deserve the riches of the world.” Despite alignment differences, all Orders vow a primary allegiance to magic above everything else.

Once a Wizard attains a certain level of power and completes a Test, they automatically gain a level in the prestige class. The prerequisites are easy enough for a Wizard to meet: appropriate alignment for the Robe to wear, able to prepare and cast spells from a school their Robed Order favors (abjuration and divination for white, illusion and transmutation for red, enchantment and necromancy for black), and two metamagic or item creation feats.

Mechanics-wise Wizards gain a free magic item after completing the Test, enhanced specialization in their school (if they’re a specialist) with additional spells per day and Save DCs, a variable modifier to their caster level depending upon the phase of their aligned Moon, and access to the libraries and laboratories of the Towers (although only Wayreth still exists). Additionally a Wizard can learn Secrets from their appropriate Order at every 3rd level. Basically secrets are unique abilities which are added to spells and thematically related to their order. For example, a Red Robe’s Magic of Deception makes his spells harder to detect with divination, while a Black Robe’s Magic of Darkness converts half of the damage of a spell to negative energy. They’re overall pretty cool, and a few can grant free metamagic abilities without increasing caster level, so that’s good, but the Black Robe in particular has a super-powerful secret: Magic of Hunger. This allows the Wizard the ability to prepare an additional spell per day by suffering Constitution damage equal to the spell level, and the damage has to be recovered naturally. As a Wizard’s power comes from their spells and how much they can cast them, a Black Robe PC playing his cards right effectively gains free spells.

A Wizard can also switch Robes and alignment, and must assign their specialized and prohibited schools anew. Additionally they can no longer learn Secrets of their abandoned order, and suffer a massive -20% penalty on experience points earned until the next level.

As of Age of Mortals Sourcebook onwards, a Wizard of High Sorcery no longer needs to specialize in a school to attain this prestige class. They do not gain enhanced school specialization, though.

Overall this is a very powerful prestige class, as it supplements the abilities of one of the most powerful core classes in 3rd Edition. Power-wise there is no reason you wouldn’t take this class and remain a plain ol’ single-classed Wizard, especially now that you don’t need to be a Specialist now with errata. Role-playing wise you might not be fond of being part of a centralized hierarchy overseeing you.

Thoughts so far: I like the prestige classes in terms of flavor, but when it comes to game mechanics the spellcasters get all the good stuff. Story of 3rd Edition.

Next time the rest of Chapter Two: Other Prestige Classes and Feats!
 
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Imban

Registered User
Validated User
#9
Additionally, they can be used to create other Medallions for new Clerics, even those of another deity (although good clerics can’t create medallions for evil deities and vice versa).
I'm pretty sure they can, the book just says it's a "very rare occasion", probably because most good Clerics think the Clerics of evil gods are huge jerks, and vice versa.
 

junglefowl26

Registered User
Validated User
#10
Secondly, any attempts to forcibly remove a medallion from a Cleric’s neck deals 2d4 points of divine damage to the aggressor.
Yet no divine damage to those who stab said clerics. Odd.
 
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