Everything you need to know about Dragonlance and Krynn before playing Shadow of the Dragon Queen, the latest setting coming to D&D
Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen is coming to D&D 5e December 6, featuring the titular setting with almost four decades of lore and worldbuilding under its belt. Many fans are wildly excited to inhabit the same world as characters like Tanis Half-Elven or Raistlin once again, but it’s possible that someone who’s interested in Dungeons and Dragons has managed to skip the whole Dragonlance experience up til now. The most likely reason for that is due to you being young enough to miss the seismic impact of the original Dragonlance adventures and the three book novel series of the same name. Since you will likely long outlive me, it falls to me and my ancient, withered frame to tell you what Dragonlance is all about, to prepare you for your upcoming adventure.
To start, there are a few basics to address. Dragonlance is the overall name for the setting as a whole and the products related to it like the adventures and novels published for it. Krynn is the world the adventures and novels happen on (much like The Lord of the Rings takes place on Middle-Earth, for example). Ansalon is the continent where most of the original adventures and novels are set.
Where did Dragonlance start?
Dragonlance was originally created like most fantasy worlds — because two people stuck in a confined space needed something to talk about.
I kid, but only a little. The origin of the Dragonlance setting for Dungeons and Dragons is the drive to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, when Laura and Tracy Hickman were headed to TSR (the then-owner of the D&D game) for a job interview. This led to Tracy (after he got the job) meeting Margaret Weis. The D&D game started with Hickman, Weis and others at TSR, was the spark of creation of the Dragonlance series of modules, as well as the original Dragonlance trilogy, with the publication of DL 1 Dragons of Despair and the novel Dragons of Autumn Twilight.
Since then, there have been hundreds of Dragonlance novels expanding upon and exploring the world of Krynn as first seen in the original Chronicles trilogy, and the DL series of adventures that adapted the storyline of the novels into playable adventures. Back in 1984 to 1988, this was a brand new approach — not many RPGs had even attempted to create both a novel series and a series of published adventures based on that novel series.
There are today numerous Dragonlance adventures and setting books published for various editions of D&D as well as hundreds of novels written by a host of writers (including Weis and Hickman themselves) as well as an animated movie which… well, it tried, bless its heart.
So what’s the big deal with Dragonlance now?
Almost every element we think of as core to the D&D experience was either shaped by Dragonlance, or lifted from it wholesale. Things like epic adventures, characters that grow in power and importance in a continuing campaign, settings like like ancient tombs and crypts, powerful monsters and evil gods up to sinister machinations and, oh yeah, a metric buttload of Dragons are so liberally applied throughout Dragonlance that it’s a rich setting for even the most jaded D&D player.
In a way, without the seismic ripples of Dragonlance and Krynn, the 1987 change to the Forgotten Realms would never have happened.
Krynn occupies a unique space in Dungeons and Dragons because the adventures set in this world tend towards the more epic side of fantasy — more Lord of the Rings, less Conan or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser in scale and scope. Since we didn’t see any Dragonlance content in 4th Edition it’s a big deal that we’re going to see it return in 5th Edition.
How Dragonlance differs from other D&D settings
So there are quite a few unique things about the world of Krynn, some of which aren’t seen very often in other D&D settings. So here are some things you may need to keep in mind while getting ready to play the upcoming adventure.
Krynn has many gods, but two of them are also powerful Dragons. The Dragon Queen Takhisis takes the form of a many headed wyrm with Red, White, Black, Blue, and Green heads. Paladine is an enormous and powerful Platinum scaled Dragon who also sometimes wanders the world as a seemingly bumbling but well meaning mage called Fizban. Yes, that Fizban, the one from Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. It’s since been confirmed that Takhisis and Paladine are essentially the same entities as Tiamat and Bahamut, settling a long debated and somewhat silly argument among D&D players who have been around and arguing somewhat silly things since the 1980’s, like yours truly.
Krynn’s mages are members of the Order of High Sorcery, and draw their power from one of three moons orbiting Krynn — Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari. There is also a knightly order, the Knights of Solamnia, that dates to the time before the Cataclysm, where the Kingdom of Istar was destr0yed by the gods for its hubris and the world of Krynn sank into the Age of Despair for 300 years. Indeed, the original Dragonlance adventure, Dragons of Despair is so named because the War of the Lance that starts in it changes the world and brings the Age of Despair to an end.
Krynn is also home to many different races than the standard D&D ones, such as Kender, the brave little thieves that take the place of Halflings, Gully Dwarves, a somewhat unfortunate type of Dwarf unique to Krynn, and the fearsome Draconians created by dark magic that corrupts and twists a good Dragon’s egg to create being similar to Dragonborn but devoted to evil and the service of Takhisis herself.
How much of this will I need to know to play Shadow of the Dragon Queen?
The good news is, you don’t need to learn, internalize, or memorize this stuff before you start your campaign — it’s just good background information! Shadow of the Dragon Queen takes place during the War of the Lance, so around the same time as the original novel series, but in a different locale — the adventure sees the players oppose the malevolent Death Knight Lord Soth (the floating head up in that header image, the Darth Vader of dead guys) and his army of Draconicans loyal to Takhisis as they attempt to conquer the nation of Solamnia. Shadow of the Dragon Queen will contain what you as a DM need to run the game and rules for players making characters native to Krynn and the War of the Lance.
So that’s a quick and dirty primer to the vast, 200+ novel, dozens of adventures and sourcebooks extravaganza that is the Dragonlance setting. Trust me, we could be here all week. There’s a lot of ground to cover. But this covers what you’ll need for context as you play through the new adventure once it’s out on December 6.
My birthday’s December 7, btw, just in case you’re wondering what to get me.
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