[Let's Read] Tales of the Lance boxed set

Crowqueen

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#1
Let’s Read: Tales of the Lance Boxed Set

Having recently got hold of this in order to run a short Dragonlance filler game, it occurred to me that I remember getting this the first time round more vividly than many AD&D boxes – and goodness knows I got a lot of stuff during my first year or so in the game. Although I don’t think my group ever played Dragonlance seriously, we nevertheless cannibalised a lot of different settings for our Spelljammer game. Naturally enough, we used that setting as a reason to throw in a lot of different AD&D add-ons, so we had the run of the settings. Krynnspace was the birthplace of the Spelljammer setting novels’ main characters, after all, so it seemed only natural to ruthlessly exploit the ruleset. The ‘anything goes’ nature of the campaign meant that if you could find it in a book, then you could play it. So naturally I brought along a 20th level paladin riding a platinum dragon and carrying a dragonlance to a PVP session we had once, shortly before I moved away. At the same time as loving the literature around the setting, it has a bit of a reputation chez moi as being somewhat unfriendly to your average D&D campaign. I think this might be ‘working as intended’, on the part of the developers, and a move away from dungeon delving for fun and profit, but IMO I always found the Forgotten Realms more easy to write games for. Too many restrictions in the setting make for good fiction, but for gaming I need a few plot hooks that don’t involve ‘tomorrow, pal, we save the world…again’.

And I put kender into my eclectic home-brew world alongside ordinary halflings.

Meanwhile, I’ve been looking to start a Let’s Read or Where I Watch for a while. My last attempts foundered because I simply recapped what I was reading rather than actively critiquing or reviewing them, so not a lot of discussion got going. I found it difficult to watch something again just for the purpose of doing a review thread, but equally, when I experience something for the first time, I don’t always have the time necessary to document my progress through the series, novel or game book alongside reading it. This seems to be the best way to actively read and digest a product, firstly to use it in my own game and secondly as a huge nostalgia trip. I also got the idea from Dorchadas’ Drow of the Underdark thread, where we discussed the idea that fantasy writers have no sense of scale and I suggested that actually, the way the DL timeline works, things seem to be more or less in proportion.

NB: I haven’t played anything Dragonlancey post-2e AD&D; my experience is limited to Dragonlance elements in a wider planet-hopping campaign and the PVP battle, of which I only remember the character. I flipped through the 3e published adventure, but I’ve never read the SAGA rules. However, I did read the whole way through the original trilogy, most of the way through the subsequent trilogy about Caramon and Raistlin going back in time to the Cataclysm and then confronting Takhisis. I made it about half the way through Dragons of Summer Flame before getting depressed about the very casual way in which some of the heroes were bumped off, and it was at a time when I was pretty miserable anyway so seeing characters I'd grown up with (I was 12 when I started reading this stuff) getting the boot was just not what I wanted to read for enjoyment. I have a copy of some of the later written stuff (the Dwarven Depths one is currently up for sale on Amazon), but always quite enjoyed the short stories and prequel books rather than the rather lurid post-War of the Lance books. It came across as if the writers had taken a high fantasy franchise and were pushing it right up into the stratosphere where it was beginning to suffocate. But if someone wants to comment on the novels, be my guest.
 
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Crowqueen

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#2
The Box
The box itself has a very nice painting of the Heroes of the Lance. 2e DL art was always quite tame in comparison to the stuff put out for other settings, and of course, given this art is probably about thirty years old, the diversity is very poor here along ethnic, if not gender, lines. At least most of the DL heroines seemed to keep their kit on, though I’m thinking right now of the picture of Kitiara with her clothes ripped defending the gate while Dalamar looks on. I was always a bit fuzzy about his position but it did give me some inspiration for my own fiction, so the picture stands out in my mind.

Left to right, we have Raistlin, Caramon, Tanis, Flint and Tasslehoff, Goldmoon and Riverwind, Sturm, Tika (the only woman to have much bare skin on her) and Laurana. The men look reasonably stern and unforgiving; there’s very little in the way of nudity, either male or female. All look as if they are having their picture taken or drawn, all are staring resolutely at the camera. None look particularly constipated, though I had difficulty recognising Riverwind, who in my mind is a bit more ‘barbarian’ looking.

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, as this is a rather important shot of them, but it does look awfully like it will appear in years to come over the mantelpiece in the Inn of the Last Home, entitled something like ‘What we did in the last war’. It suggests that despite the low-magic nature of the setting, there’s some sort of way to simulate photography. I can’t imagine a sketch artist or painter sticking around long enough to find the best light.

The tagline says ‘Now is the time for heroes’. No problem with that. The logo is the most modern TSR one available from about 1995 onwards – clearly there were several printings as I remember that logo only came out while I was quietly moving away from role-playing and discovering boys, music and skirts that just about covered my bottom (and with my legs, that was completely the opposite direction from which they should have been going). However, the copyright date is 1992 and there doesn’t appear to be a specific date for this printing.
 
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Chris Henry

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#3
TotL was my favourite 2nd Edition boxed set. It felt so comprehensive compared to similar sets in that time frame, even though I wasn't then a Dragonlance fan. I was disappointed a few years ago to find that I no longer owned it. I'll be following this thread with interest.
 
#5
The Box
The box itself has a very nice painting of the Heroes of the Lance. 2e DL art was always quite tame in comparison to the stuff put out for other settings, and of course, given this art is probably about thirty years old, the diversity is very poor here along ethnic, if not gender, lines. At least most of the DL heroines seemed to keep their kit on, though I’m thinking right now of the picture of Kitiara with her clothes ripped defending the gate while Dalamar looks on. I was always a bit fuzzy about his position but it did give me some inspiration for my own fiction, so the picture stands out in my mind.
According to The Art of the Dragonlance Saga, that painting was specifically done as a contrast to most other images of Kitiara, where she's in full armor.
None look particularly constipated, though I had difficulty recognising Riverwind, who in my mind is a bit more ‘barbarian’ looking.
Art references for Riverwind are few and far between, though--I think there's only like half a dozen paintings across the course of the entire saga that feature him. He and Goldmoon tend to get the short end of the stick among the original eight HotL, although Goldmoon got revivified (in multiple senses of the term) for the Fifth Age.

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, as this is a rather important shot of them, but it does look awfully like it will appear in years to come over the mantelpiece in the Inn of the Last Home, entitled something like ‘What we did in the last war’. It suggests that despite the low-magic nature of the setting, there’s some sort of way to simulate photography. I can’t imagine a sketch artist or painter sticking around long enough to find the best light.
The original, I believe, does just that for Tracy Hickman, and I think the 'fictional' equivalent is at the Inn. Anyone with a copy of The History of Dragonlance on hand to check?

The tagline says ‘Now is the time for heroes’. No problem with that. The logo is the most modern TSR one available from about 1995 onwards – clearly there were several printings as I remember that logo only came out while I was quietly moving away from role-playing and discovering boys, music and skirts that just about covered my bottom (and with my legs, that was completely the opposite direction from which they should have been going). However, the copyright date is 1992 and there doesn’t appear to be a specific date for this printing.
The TotL box got reprinted three or four times, I believe; it was the core 2nd Edition Dragonlance product. The circular logo actually started showing up on products around May 1994, but the original release was 1992.
 

Davies

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#6
I've actually always felt that painting was a fairly huge mistep -- the characters look threatening rather than inviting, as though they're looking with distinct disfavor on people who want to have adventures on "their turf". I mean, the painting on the Forgotten Realms grey box is pretty intimidating, too, but there's not also a whole swath of novels about that guy.
 

Golden Guy

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#7
Aren't their people Native American-ish, giving at least a nod to diversity?
Yep, based off Native Americans. Dragonlance is sort of Mormon influenced in places (Tracy being fairly devout); you can sort of see the 'lost tribe of Israel' thing from the Book of Mormon being paralleled with them.
 

Crowqueen

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#8
Thanks for the responses. I've got a few sections written already so I'll post a bit more tonight.

Aren't their people Native American-ish, giving at least a nod to diversity?
Yep, based off Native Americans. Dragonlance is sort of Mormon influenced in places (Tracy being fairly devout); you can sort of see the 'lost tribe of Israel' thing from the Book of Mormon being paralleled with them.
I think he and Goldmoon both look very European - which is the issue here, I suppose. However one could say - from reading the history - the barbarians are splinter-groups of the human societies elsewhere on Ansalon, who may be more homogeneous - there might not be any ethnic distinctions between them. But I think it's a bit of a whitewash myself - although I wonder, if they were obviously of a different ethnicity, whether that would fall into stereotyping. It's a fine line to tread.

The bit about Mormonism is very interesting, though. The only thing I've read about Hickman's religion was an article about the artificial nature of D&D and the thief/rogue class in particular. He seemed to be down on the idea of 'glorifying' pickpocketing, or assuming that thieves' guilds would exist in real city. Very heavy-handed, but I can see where he was coming from. (The only issue that my Christian mother had with AD&D was with portraying clerics as adventurers and having pagan gods. I wouldn't say she disapproved, but ironically it made her a bit uncomfortable that we didn't take religion completely out of the game.)

Davies said:
I've actually always felt that painting was a fairly huge mistep -- the characters look threatening rather than inviting, as though they're looking with distinct disfavor on people who want to have adventures on "their turf". I mean, the painting on the Forgotten Realms grey box is pretty intimidating, too, but there's not also a whole swath of novels about that guy.
Who is he? I liked the woman on the front of the Forgotten Realms Adventures book. (Our DM has a copy so if this gets finished I fancy reading that.)
 
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#9
I think he and Goldmoon both look very European - which is the issue here, I suppose. However one could say - from reading the history - the barbarians are splinter-groups of the human societies elsewhere on Ansalon, who may be more homogeneous - there might not be any ethnic distinctions between them. But I think it's a bit of a whitewash myself - although I wonder, if they were obviously of a different ethnicity, whether that would fall into stereotyping. It's a fine line to tread.
The natives of northwest and far northern Ansalon--Ergoth and Nordmaar--are actually dark-skinned a la Earth Africans. (Remember, Ansalon's in the southern hemisphere.) However, those locations get ignored a lot in the material. Theros Ironfeld, a minor character in the original modules and novels, is black, as is the pirate Maquesta (who's also a secret half-elf).
 
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