Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Game 112: Champions of Krynn (1990)

Champions of Krynn
United States
Strategic Simulations, Inc. (Developer and Publisher)
Released 1990 for DOS, Amiga, Apple II, 1992 for PC-98
Date Started: 27 August 2013
Champions of Krynn is not screwing around. Although it starts a new series, it seems to expect that the player has some experience with Pool of Radiance or Curse of the Azure Bonds and isn't particularly interested in battling groups of orcs and kobolds again. There's no easy introductory area. The first battle pits you against Draconians, an enemy unique to this campaign setting, and within the course of the first map, you're fighting difficult battles against spellcasters. The final fight of the first city features two dragons. The game is also very plot-heavy (at least during the opening stages), giving a greater sense of participating in an unfolding novel.

As much as I love the "Gold Box" engine, I'll be surprised if I'm not a bit fatigued by it come next year. 1990 saw the release of Champions of Krynn, Secret of the Silver Blades, and Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday, and we got three more Gold Box games in 1991--four if you count the online Neverwinter Nights. (It might be worth reviewing my coverage of Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds for the origins of the Gold Box series.)

Nonetheless, although they use the same engine, it would be disingenuous to suggest that they all look and feel exactly the same. As you can see from even the opening screen, between editions the games made incremental improvements in things like graphics, sound effects, music, interface, implementation of D&D rules, and other gameplay elements. Champions starts with an arresting musical number that takes full advantage of the latest sound devices (I have it set to CMS/Game Blaster). The graphics, while not yet composed for VGA (we'll have to wait for the 1991 series for that), still benefit from greater artistic effort. There's a new "level" setting that adjusts the difficulty of combat, and the game supports the use of a mouse or joystick, though I'll happily stick with the keyboard.

This opening image is better than anything the previous games accomplished in 16 colors.

Release dates are hard to nail down for 1990, so I'm not sure if Champions is the first, second, or third Gold Box game from 1990 (and thus the third, fourth, or fifth game overall), but it's probably the first released outside the Forgotten Realms series. As such, it offers the rare but interesting experience of playing a game in a familiar engine, and with familiar rules, but having to learn an entirely new setting, history, and lore.

The Forgotten Realms universe has always reminded me a bit of Los Angeles: a sprawling gallimaufry with no central core. The Dragonlance universe, in contrast, reminds me of nearby Irvine: a little sterile in its sense of being planned. Dragonlance was created by the husband-wife team of Laura and Tracy Hickman, and fleshed out in a series of novels by the Hickmans and Margaret Weis. I'm getting the following summary from various wikis, so my apologies if I misinterpret anything: Krynn is the world of the Dragonlance setting, and it is characterized by constant struggle among the various gods who created and influence it. These include Paladine (god of good), Gilean (neutrality), and Takhisis (evil). In the creation of the world, the gods created races that embodied their traits: elves from Paladine, humans from Gilean, and ogres from Takhisis. The god of crafts and forging, Reorx, tried to teach metalwork to humans, got annoyed at their irreverence, and turned a bunch of them into gnomes as punishment. Dwarves and Kender are races perverted from gnomes.

The character creation process is nearly identical to the previous games except for new races.
The history of Krynn is divided into five ages. The Age of Starbirth brought the creation of the world and its races. The Age of Dreams is marked by a series of Dragon Wars, conflicts between armies using dragons, who were created by Paladine but corrupted by Takhisis. During the third such war, Dragonlances were formed. They are the only weapons powerful enough to allow mortals to kill dragons.

In the Age of Might, a great nation called Istar arose on Krynn's main continent, Ansalon. The Kingpriest of Istar sought to rule the world and eradicate all evil but was naturally corrupted by his own ambition. When he began to challenge the gods themselves, they hurled a fiery mountain at Istar and destroyed it. The event became known as the Cataclysm, and the age that follows was called the Age of Despair, characterized by constant warfare. The culmination of this era was the War of the Lance, an attempt by Takhisis to conquer Krynn with evil dragons and armies of various types of Draconians, created out of the corrupted eggs of good dragons (Takhisis had been holding these eggs hostage to keep the good dragons from entering the war against her). The war was turned and won through the efforts of ten multi-racial champions of Paladine, called the Heroes of the Lance, and an ancient chivalric order called the Knights of Solamnia.

The last age, the Age of Mortals, sees further wars against evil dragons, the loss of immortality by the gods, and the eventual death of Takhisis. It is, I understand, the period of the current novels.

Champions of Krynn takes place during the Age of Despair, after the end of the War of the Lance, around a group of cities that were overrun by evil forces during the war. The Knights of Solomnia, entrenched in an outpost near the city of Throtl (occupied by hobgoblins), have been on a campaign to clean the area of evil forces. But lately, the commandant of the knights has been acting erratic, as if under the influence of an evil spell. A Knight of the Rose named Sir Karl has been dispatched to the outpost to evaluate the situation; the player's party of adventurers has accompanied him; and the game begins as Karl asks them to patrol the area and report back on the disposition of any evil forces.

I guess to fit within the paradigm of D&D rules, Dragonlance had to offer essentially the same (or similar) races. Otherwise, I can't account for how, in creating a brand new universe, the races still boiled down to humans, elves, dwarves, and half-elves, with the Kender substituted for halflings. There are, nonetheless, some unique variations. Dwarves are divided into hill dwarves (stubborn, hardy, rough) and mountain dwarves (more refined); elves into Silvanesti elves (tall, arrogant) and Qualinesti elves (shorter, friendlier). The Kender are characterized by curiosity, an odd sense of bravery given their size, the ability to "taunt" opponents into a mindless rage, and the ability to use a special staff-sling weapon called a hoopak. I'm sure that there are more subtle differences between these races and their Forgotten Realms counterparts that my more experienced readers can flesh out.

As with the Forgotten Realms gold box games, there are class restrictions and level restrictions based on race; unlike the Forgotten Realms games, they're not so strict as to make non-human races entirely unplayable. (To be sure, I followed PetrusOctavianus's advice and looked at the tables for the third game in the series, The Dark Queen of Krynn.) Elves can rise to maximum levels as clerics, rangers, and mages, and dwarves can go the distance as fighters. Knights are a new class in this series that only humans can max in. They exist in three levels--Crown, Sword, and Rose--and must tithe percentages of whatever money they carry every time they enter an outpost. Like paladins in the Forgotten Realms, they have the ability to cast cleric spells after Level 6. (Paladins don't exist in this game but apparently become available in the second entry, Death Knights of Krynn.) Beyond this addition, the classes are composed of the standard variety: fighters, rangers, clerics, mages, and thieves. Multi-classing rules are the same as in Forgotten Realms, and there are no dual classes.

After studying the manual a bit, I decided to go with this party:

  • Midsummer, a lawful good female human knight
  • Dutch, a lawful good male human knight
  • Grave, a chaotic good male Silvanesti elf ranger/cleric of the god Kiri-Jouth
  • Atmos, a lawful good male Qualinesti elf cleric of Majere/white mage
  • Squirrel, a true neutral female Qualinesti elf red mage/thief
  • Coral, a neutral good female Kender cleric of Mishakal/thief

"Weeeeeeee are the Champions of Krynn..."

I went with so many multi-classed characters because they just make sense in this game. With development capped by level rather than experience points, a multi-classed character can get a lot farther than a single-classed one. Plus, it limits the likelihood that I'll bump against the caps and thus become annoyed with random combats. I figured it made sense to have multiple characters with both mage and cleric spells, and to explore the different types of mages and clerics. I like the idea of two thieves for the backstabbing ability. Between a cleric's armor and a thief's backstab, no one here is useless in melee combat.

I originally was going to go with a dwarf fighter for the second character but ultimately decided not to because screw dwarves. This way, a single knight doesn't have to ride herd on this ragtag bunch by herself.

Alignment has a more interesting role in this game than in the Forgotten Realms series. First, given the name of the game, it dispenses with any notion that you can role-play an evil party. Everyone is good or neutral. For mages, alignment determines the type of mage (red or white; each has different spells, though drawn from the usual list); for clerics, it determines the available gods, each of which conveys certain bonuses. For instance, clerics of Majere turn undead at two levels higher than normal. Clerics of Mishakal get extra spells.

Although I like the idea of creating your own character icons, I'm no good at it. The icons that SSI presents in its demo reels and NPCs always look much more interesting and sophisticated than mine. Here's a comparison:

Note the colorful and interesting outfits on these three demo characters.

And my pathetic attempts.

The game begins when the party accompanies Sir Karl on his mission to the outpost near Throtl. While he conducts his investigation, he directs the party to equip themselves, memorize spells, and scout the surrounding area, noting (via journal entry) that the worst monsters seen in the area have been hobgoblins. The process of purchasing equipment was a little odd in that the armory (unlike the shops in Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds) didn't have every item in the D&D catalog, just a handful of the most necessary items for the major classes.

The paltry selection of equipment in the starting town.

I was also interested to see that each character started with thousands of experience points, in some cases enough to make him or her Level 2 or 3 right at the beginning. I'd been assuming that we'd start as rank amateurs as usual.

The outpost was just a menu town, so as soon as I was ready, I hit the open road. Just one step later, I ran into a special encounter: a company of Draconians slaughtering women and children in a caravan. Combat began with a quartet of the creatures, Draconians of the Baaz type, who turn into stone when slain and thus trap the weapon of the character who struck the killing blow. He can retrieve it after the battle but must otherwise fight weaponless unless he has a backup. Well into the first maps, I kept forgetting to re-equip weapons lost in this manner, and I'd suddenly find that one of my knights was fighting with his fists.

The battle wasn't hard, and afterwards the game indicated that the last surviving Draconian took some kind of book from one of the dead bodies and disappeared. The women and children asked me to escort them to the outpost. It wasn't much of a role-playing choice, but it was a choice nonetheless.

The overland map is smaller, with fewer features, than the previous games.

Returning to the commandant's office, I found Sir Karl in the process of slaying the commandant, whose body immediately turned into a Sivak Draconian, shapeshifters who are able to fly. Indicating that the situation was "graver than he feared," he sent me to Throtl to find a knight named Caramon, one of the titular Heroes of the Lance and (I gather) a major character in the novels.

Throtl consisted of two 16 x 16 maps. Though the size was the usual Gold Box standard, the maps took me much longer to navigate than any previous game's, partly because the combats were so difficult (common enemies were clerics, mages, mid-level fighters, hobgoblins, Draconians, and undead) and partly because there was so much plot exposition. It transpired that someone named Myrtani had re-discovered the process used to convert good dragon eggs to Draconians, and the rituals were being performed in the catacombs of the city. As I battled forward, the enemy legions--satisfyingly scared of me--desperately tried to salvage what they could of the eggs and their documentation on the process and to flee before I could catch up to them. The maps culminated in a battle with priests at an altar, but many of the enemies escaped and I never did catch up with Myrtani.

During the process, I found Caramon in chains and freed him. Shortly afterwords, a young elven girl named Maya showed up and took him back to the outpost. There was a strong suggestion that she was a dragon in human form, and perhaps involved in some kind of relationship with Sir Karl.

The game continues the use of journal paragraphs to relay key situations and conversations.

Towards the end of Throtl, there were a few rumors that someone else was circumventing Myrtani to direct the corruption of the eggs, and that the enemy was withdrawing its forces (and eggs) to a keep called Gargath.

There were a lot of overheard conversations in the first map.

My initial attempt to fight the final battle against hobgoblins and two white dragons resulted in a full-party death, thanks to the dragons' breath attacks. On a reload, I memorized "Resist Cold" and cast it on all party members. That did the trick. When I returned to the outpost, I got a mission from Sir Karl to take word to the outpost near Gargath and to investigate the Tower of Gargath.

Some stray observations on my first outing:

  • The game presents the player with a number of light role-playing choices, usually having to do with whether to attack or flee, but sometimes offering the ability to parlay with monsters instead of immediately fighting them. It's more than most games of the era offer.

  • I had to retreat from the city several times during the first maps, return to the outpost, and train my characters to the next levels. By the end of the first two maps, many of my characters were Level 4 out of a game maximum of only 8 levels.
  • Most of my characters are awful shots. Even at higher levels, they miss the vast majority of their attacks. So do the enemies, fortunately.
  • The Forgotten Realms games didn't introduce combats of this difficulty until after my mages had developed mass-damage spells. Lacking those, I've been relying much more on lower-level spells like "Hold Person" and "Sleep." The game introduced a much more significant tactical challenge than I found in either Pool or Curse.
Against other clerics and mages, this spell is a lifesaver.
  • I was just complimenting Dragon Fire for spicing up the game with creative room descriptions. Well, Champions does that, too. It was almost a little jarring to find in-text descriptions like the one below with nothing to actually find or do in the room.

  • Visually, unfortunately, the dungeons remain uniform, drab, and boring. I was hoping the latest installment would offer better textures and something more interesting to look at.
  • The "Enlarge" spell, so useful in Curse, doesn't work in this game. My characters resist it, as if an enemy is trying to cast an offensive spell at them. This even happens in camp.
  • The major unit of currency of the Dragonlance world is "steel pieces." (It strikes me as kind of stupid to make your currency unit something needed for armor and weapons and such.) So far in the game, I haven't found a mother lode, but neither have I been to a shop with anything worth buying.
  • Combat initiative seems less dependent on random rolls and more dependent on dexterity. My characters almost always go in the same order.
  • The game awards miscellaneous experience for hitting plot points. I don't remember that happening in Pool or Curse.
So far, it's been a fun and challenging game, with enough variances from the previous two entries to keep me interested, but retaining what's best about the Gold Box series. I don't find the plot compelling just yet, but perhaps it's simply because I have no investment in this campaign setting. We'll see if it grows on me. I'm curious what my readers think of the Dragonlance setting compared to the Forgotten Realms.


  1. Fewer things to buy would be an *improvement* over Curse and Pool which had dozens of utterly useless ones you could buy in the shops.

    I also had the same problem with Enlarge... in Curse. I was running the last version from the CDROM set that included all the AD&D games. Perhaps they felt it was unbalancing the game and nerfed it? (The same people that left useless spells in Curse just because they were in AD&D? Naaaah....)

  2. Been a long time but I remember one thing. Be sure to drop by the 2nd outpost on the road ahead, the main quest wants to send you to the 3rd stop from Throtl, Gargath I think. I'm not sure you actually will have an opportunity to get back to the 2nd outpost or you just lose a quest or something if you by pass it. There are probably just the non essential side quest and plot developments there.


  3. Champions of Krynn was the only Gold Box game I finished. Actually I found it easier than Pool of Radiance. I also tried Gateway to the Savage Frontier two or three times but I always got stuck. I tried to continue in Death Knights of Krynn with my Champions party but the level draining undead were just too hard for me.

    I completely forgot the story of Champions of Krynn, the only thing I remember is that it was a very linear game.

  4. It's been a long time but I think Maya was an actual fvyire qentba.

    In my case, I much prefer the Dragonlance setting than the Forgotten Realms.

    Dragonlance is a lot more original, with a well thought-out pantheon, and a solid history. From what I read in the novels, most of the stories were written based on the campaigns being played on the Dragonlance setting on table-top (and yes, Caramon is quite central to the campaign, in that he managed to stop the birth of a mad god who would be strong enough to wipe out the entire Dragonlance Pathos if Caramon hadn't stepped in).

    Forgotten Realms is more a smorgasbord of ideas thrown in whenever Gary Gygax could not stick them in Mystara.

    Dragonlance is, by far, my 2nd favorite D&D setting - followed by Dark Sun (which you'd probably also find intriguing, at the very least, when you start playing Wake of the Ravager later).

    Eberron is quite similar to Dragonlance but it has too much of a White Wolf (Exalted series) vibe to it than D&D.

    1. Gary Gygax had nothing to do with the Forgotten Realms: He was Greyhawk. Ed Greenwood wrote the Forgotten Realms, and if you read the early products it is a very nice, if a bit bland, world. However, they then allowed dozens of novel writers to run roughshod over it. So the gods act differently in various novels,there are geographical continuity errors, widely varying magic levels, etc.

      ......I'm not seeing the relationship between Exalted (Anime inspired, giant swords, wire-fu action sequences, etc.) and Eberron, which is a pulp setting. I'll write out what I like about it later (I was planning on doing that when I read Chet's opinions anyway), but yeah. I very much disagree with you on that.

      Also: Dark sun? Aka 'How depressing can we make D&D, the campaign setting'?

      I'm much more interested in Spelljammer and Birthright then Dark Sun.

    2. It seems like everyone has his own favourite setting. Which is a good thing, really, considering that probably was the reason behind creating more than one of them. Sadly computer games don't tend to experiment much. Right off the bat (besides FR and Dragonlance) I can think of one Eberron, two Dark Sun, one Grayhawk, one Ravenloft and one Planescape title. I might have missed some important one but my point is: less generic setting are not as thoroughly explored in cRPGs or computer gams in general.

      As of my personal favourites - won't be original - Forgotten Realms despite all flaws is a generic high fantasy setting I compare everything else to. I really like Dark Sun as well but besides that I am slightly indifferent to other settings.

    3. The Mystara setting of BECMI D&D had five: Tower of Doom, Shadows over Mystara, Order of the Griffon, Fantasy Empires, and Warriors of the Eternal Sun.

    4. There were actually 3 Darksun and 2 Ravenloft games, even though I'm not sure how canon the 2nd one was (mummies?!)

      There was also 1 Al-Qadim game. Wasn't World of Aden another setting? There were 2 games from that.

    5. The Spelljammer game is sadly very buggy and not very good.

      One of the Dark Sun games is a fighting game, like a cheap Mortal Combat or Street Fighter or something.

      There are two Eberron games, one of which is an MMO, the other a Real Time Strategy, from what I remember.

    6. @Canageek - Eh? Isn't Elminster created by Ed Greenwood as an ass-kissing to you-know-who? Anyway, Greyhawk is a sister world (albeit, darker) to Forgotten Realms. Which explains why spells created by the Circle Of Eight is also there. And remember, nothing goes into Forgotten Realms without the final approval of Gary, since, you know, he owned TSR. So, anything that appears there was, in fact, totally due to his decisions.

      As for the similarities between Exalted and Eberron, there are way too many of them not to draw parallesl from - for one, just look at the font of their titles. And take a look of the two images from each (Eberron's is official, Exalted's a fan-art)...

      Dark Sun is pretty depressing, yeah. But I'm more into the challenges it provides, with a greater variety of powers available.

    7. Pedro: Mummies are, in fact, Ravenloft canon. There's even a whole Egyptian setting. It was very kitchen-sink as a setting, that's why there were so many little domains.

    8. Elminster was created by Greenwood to be a sort of a narrator for the stories in the realms. A wise old sage who knows a lot, sits by the fire, drinks ale and tells stories about all the things he has seen. Over time he got more popular and Ed made him the stars of the stories instead of the narrator. The early Wizard Three or whatever it was called in Dragon was a good example of him as a narrator.

      I dunno, I've not seen much of Exalted, just bits online and I read a webcomic about it for a while (Keychain of creation or something like that?) and it never really appalled to me. Stunting? Over the top wuxia action? Very eastern-flavoured mythology? Not my thing. I like the two-fisted, pulpy, Indiana Jones feel that a lot of Eberron has, coupled with the abundant small magic.

    9. I didn't know there was a fighting Dark Sun game. I meant the 2 single player RPGs and the short lived Dark Sun Online

    10. Pedro: Sorry, I got mixed up. It was, even more nonsensically, RAVENLOFT that got the fighting game. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_%26_Blood:_Warriors_of_Ravenloft

      I mean, Dark Sun makes sense, gladiatorial combat is a thing there. But RAVENLOFT?

    11. I actually played that Ravenloft fighting game before.

      Pretty cool concept and characters, actually. Halfling with twin rapiers? Sold!

      The gameplay, mechanics and plot were horrendous, though.

    12. I *hate* to necro, but I have to correct this quote of Kenny's for posterity's sake.

      "And remember, nothing goes into Forgotten Realms without the final approval of Gary, since, you know, he owned TSR. So, anything that appears there was, in fact, totally due to his decisions."

      That's incorrect. Forgotten Realms was introduced by TSR as a replacement for Greyhawk AFTER Gygax was thrown out of the company and his shares were bought out. Gygax never had any involvement with Forgotten Realms as a published setting.

      Any statements to the contrary, e.g. Gygax contributed to Forgotten Realms, or approved anything involved with it, are simply factually incorrect. Please read a history of TSR if you disagree.

    13. Geez. Also:

      "Forgotten Realms is more a smorgasbord of ideas thrown in whenever Gary Gygax could not stick them in Mystara."

      Gygax, outside of writing B2, Keep on the Borderlands, really did not have any involvement in Mystara at all.

      There's a good "Let's Read" thread on RPG.net where they read ALL of the Mystara material. I've read it a few times. Mystara is really the campaign world of Moldvay, mutated by the TSR staff via modules, Mentzner via the BECMI set and finally (for regular D&D) Allston/Heard via the Gazeteer, Princess Ark, and Almanac series.

      It was then transferred to AD&D 2E and shut down. TL;DR though, outside of writing a single module for the setting Gygax had no input on Mystara, and most of the *real* setting development happened after he left/was ousted from TSR.

    14. I also prefer the Dragonlance setting, as it was the first DND setting I got my hands on the novels back in 2000, and I love the simpler setting as well as the camaraderie in the novels.

      I just wish we had more DL games. Maybe I can make some...

  5. Hey Chet... long time lurker.

    PetrusOctavianus and I have been discussing this game on the 'dex in the Gold Box thread since I just recently finished and another illustrious member is currently playing Champions.

    I didn't use Enlarge much until Death Knights of Krynn, but I don't recall having issues with it either. It sounds to me like a bug of some sort rather than a feature.

    Sleep and Hold Person are handy, but they don't do much against the draconians and young white dragons. For those I had better luck with Stinking Cloud. A well-placed Stinking Cloud will cause the enemy to run through at least two squares of the poisonous vapors in order to get to you, causing them to have to make two Saving Throws to resist and therefore making it much more likely to take them down. Once incapacitated I usually have a mage kill him with a dart, leaving the space open for the next mook to take a try. As PetrusOctavianus knows, I like to make shield walls with my fighters and have the mages cast some area of effect spells over them. I usually carry a couple spare magic missiles, too, to whittle down the hit points of the bigger guys that don't go down right away.

    During the fight with the dragons I laid a stinking cloud across both, incapacitating one. My second mage magic missiled the other to weaken it, and two of my knights killed him the same turn. All together I think the fight only lasted a turn or two.

    I ran with an all human party as I didn't want to run into level caps and didn't realize it wouldn't be a big deal. Anyway, I had two knights, a red mage, a white mage, a ranger and a Cleric of Paladine. No rogues or kenders as I wanted to go melee heavy, but because of it I missed out on some really neat stuff unique to the kender.

  6. It always drove me nuts that the custom character icons looked awful compared to the pregenerated icons no matter how hard I tried. (Best I could do was make them all one color.)

    I've replayed COK recently, it was one of my favorites growing up, nowadays it feels a little too linear. Having some additional optional quests and ruins to explore would have helped a lot. Fortunately there is a lot of that in DKK.

  7. You can't actually make those fancy icons--they're copied from enemy and NPC icons. So don't beat yourself up too much.

    One thing I like to do to make reasonable-looking heroes is: if you look carefully, there are actually 2 sets of colors (COLOR-1 and COLOR-2 if I remember right), one for the front of the character and one for shaded areas. Since, in 16 colors, you have the binary combinations of red, green, blue, and white, make the front of the character one color and the back a darker shade of the same color. It gives a somewhat more realistic effect. You can even color-code your characters--fantasy is full of Black Knights, White Witches, Red Mages, Dark Wizards, and so on.

    Single-class mages become useful in Dark Queen of Krynn as, due to the linearization of the experience tables at high levels, they start gaining experience a lot faster, which is useful in affecting enchanted draconians with magic resistances over 100%. However, this is a LONG way off and may not be something you need to knock yourself out over.

    COK was my first Gold Box game. I had previously only played arcade games, and this was my first RPG. God, I loved it. I wound up preferring Pool of Radiance, with its more 'evil' options, but I have many fond memories of COK.

  8. I always made character icons similar to those Chet, so don't feel too bad. I actually used them as a quick way to reference who was who.

    My feeling on Dragonlance is it's a low-magic setting compared to Forgotten Realms, which I'd say is high-magic. There's a lot more edge of your seat the party can seriously be wiped out at any moment battles. That's just from playing the pencil and paper version though, so it could have been a DM bias for one or the other.

    I played Kenders whenever possible, and remember they would randomly get items popped into their inventory. That probably doesn't happen in the computer game though.

    1. Yes, the order of D&D Settings from low magic to high magic is something like:

      Dark Sun
      Forgotten Realms when it first came out
      Forgotten Realms after Elminster got popular

      And somewhere in there is Eberron, which is a bit funny as it has the most low-level magic of any setting, but almost no high level spellcasters (On the main continent then are something like, 5, one of whom is a lich in hiding, one of who is only high level within a certain fortress, and the rest are random wizards....and the 'high level' here is about half the power of the casters in FR or Greyhawk)

      I don't know enough about Al-Qadim, Ravenloft, or Birthright to comment on them.

    2. I'd classify Al-Qadim as pretty high magic, but below space-faring magic, with its genies and flying carpets.

      Ravenloft is very low magic, in order to make the players feel more threatened by the horrors of the night. I think it scores the lowest.

      Birthright has spells that affect entire continents but still not enough to build bloody ships that sail in space, but definitely scores higher than Al-Qadim.

    3. This is interesting because you named the dnd settings in the order that they are my favourites, I guess I love high magic because planescape is just awsome, wish I was playing when spelljammer was on the go it sounds awsome but I only play video games now no more pnp. Might and Magic or the last few Wizardry's have similar settings though and I love them.

  9. I think the only one of the Dragonlance Gold Box games I finished was the 3rd one, Dark Queen. I don't think I even played the second one.

    Anyway, regarding the Dragonlance novels...I have to say that the books by the main authors are generally worth reading. The original trilogy, "Dragonlance Chronicles" in their collected form, start out a bit stilted, and perhaps too obviously based on an actual AD&D campaign. But the characters in the party were unique, especially Raistlin who was many people's favorite, and Weis and Hickman soon found their voices. I originally read the books in my teens; as I've aged and come to appreciate much better written fantasy, I do cringe a bit when I read some of the prose, but damn if I don't tear up a bit every time I re-read some of the more...poignant scenes.

    The sequels, "Dragonlance Legends", were much better written and really make a great character out of Tasslehoff, the kender. Yes, those stories focus on Caramon and Raistlin but the way that Tas grows is what I really remember. And man, the first part of the third book still gives me chills...when that book is just about to close...

    Some of the follow-up books beyond Legends are good, especially Summer Flame, but after that I think the stories just got dragged out too far.

    I do also want to say that I think Weis and Hickman's Death Gate Cycle is a great body of work. 7 books, set among several different worlds, although the selling point are the 4 main worlds. Each of the first 4 books has the main character exploring a different world, each one build from the ruins of the destroyed Earth, and based around a different one of the 4 classic elements (Air, Fire, Earth, Water). The final 3 books tie everything together. It's a different structure and I still find it fascinating. It sold well enough (or had enough star power from the authors) to let a point-and-click adventure game be released, Death Gate, which I thought was pretty well done. It has you cast magic spells to solve many puzzles, but has no combat that I can remember and so doesn't really qualify for this blog. I suppose the adventure game blog guy might play it at some point (if he hasn't already). I heartily recommend the series to fantasy fans.

    1. You mean http://www.advgamer.blogspot.com ?

      I've not read the Death Gate series but heard of the game. Never thought it was based on the books.

      Okay, going back to the Dragonlance setting, Raistlin was particularly well written (or well-played, since the role-player; Terry Philips, was given most of the credit by Margaret Weis for inspiring her on Raistlin's attitude, inner struggles and even personality quirks) as compared to the other characters. Also, the Legend of the Twins series did no small part in further bolstering Raistlin's role and popularity from the series.

      Tasselhoff (and his Uncle Trapspringer) came naturally as second place in popularity with the rest trailing behind.

      In my opinion, the Dragonlance Chronicles came to a close with Dragons of Summer Flame as all the seasons had been covered. All else are just fillers to me.

    2. Bah, the best Dragonlance series were the Kang's Command short stories and novels, hands down. A group of lawful draconian combat engineers created as a bet made between two dragon highlords that you couldn't make a good officer out of a draconian. There was an excellent refrence to the series during the climax of Dragon's Of Summer Flame (Which I recall finding very disappointing compared to the origional trilogy and the various short story collections (Tales I think?).

      I've read most of Deathgate, but misplaced the next book in the series, then forgot which one I was on.

      I really liked the Darksword trilogy, and the science fiction ones they did: Star of the Guardians was pretty good, but I really liked the first two Mag Force 7 books, and really hope I can find a copy of the third one.

      I loved Rose of the Prophet, but um, well, I was young enough that I'm pretty sure I missed a lot of the important bits and fixated on a few throw-away scenes. Lets just say I read that series as I was entering puberty.

    3. Admittedly, I never read Kang's Command as I thought them to be fillers, and probably poor ones at that.

    4. Star of the Guardians was pretty good

      Yeah, I thought that too. Then, recently, I made the mistake of rereading it. That put the lie to THAT idea pretty dern quick. Now I'm scared to reread other Weis books that I remember fondly in case THEY all turn out to suck, too.

    5. Kenny: They are surprisingly good. A lot of the 'filler' books are better then the move the plot along books in Dragonlance.

      Regular: Epppp. I read Mag Force 7 recently, so I'm fairly confident in it. It isn't anything special, but it is a good fun romp, and one of the best books for being accepting of trans people I've seen (in fact, possibly the only positive depiction of a trans person in science fiction I can think of.

    6. I enjoyed the first three dragonlance books but don't think I ever read any others. I absolutely loved the Death Gate books when I read them 15 or so years ago. I found the Darksword books to be absolutely terrible though, I slogged through the first one and have picked up and put down the second one twice. Ugh, books 2-4 (or 3, whatever) have been clogging up my books-to-read shelf for years.

    7. I liked bits and pieces of death gate cycle. I've read some of them several times, but book 3 is always a chore.

      I think my favourite Dragonlance books were the Twins trilogy, but I'm fairly confident that I'd find most FR/DL books pretty cheesy these days.

  10. IIRC, the rationale for using steel as money was that it was actually useful compared to gold. I read the 4 main books of the Dragonlance Chronicles and there were many instances of the heroes finding huge hoards of gold but not showing the least bit of interest. Gold is just too soft to make weapons, armor or tools, three things sorely needed in a society where the gods refused to teach humankind the secrets of metallurgy and blacksmithing. Any steel that was to be had was forged centuries ago by the dwarves who, after the Cataclysm, went into hiding in their mountain fortresses. Dwarves were rare in the DL Chronicles and their stores of steel were greatly sought after.
    I'd strongly suggest reading the Dragonlance Chronicles if you're up for a fun, Tolkeinesque heroic epic.

    1. And have Chet blog slower? No way, Jose! Chet can learn about the setting as he play along, his reading pleasure be damned. =P XD

      I think the rarity of steel would be covered in either this game or Death Knights of Krynn. Also, gully dwarves.

    2. I haven't read the books and thus am not really familiar with the setting but in real life rationale behind gold being so priced is:
      1. It is rare.
      2. It does not spoil when you store it.
      Almost all cultures throughout history valued gold highly. The only society that I know of that valued iron just as highly was tribal slavic circa 1000AD, because it was 1-Rare, 2-Useful. But even they still valued gold.

      Steel on the other hand doesn't really fill the second condition (unless we're speaking about a different kind of steel than real life one, like mithrill or other magical alloy) so I see the Dragonlance's approach slightly fetched in the matter of currency.

    3. I'm not in any way an expert on historical currency, but I would think that one of the other benefits to gold, silver, and platinum in currency is that they're not useful for much else besides money. The problem with steel is that you need it for weapons, armor, and tools, so you'd constantly have currency fluctuation problems as people melted down most of your monetary supply.

    4. I seem to recall that another reason Steel was so valued was that Krynn was a comparatively low-iron world. Gold was actually easier to find and far more common, which made it less valuable than steel.

      But then they had to ruin that by flooding the world with people with various ferric armors.

    5. I thought it was because there are no STEEL dragons but you get plenty of the others around. XD

    6. If I recall, in the Ultima spinoff "Martian Dreams", the currency is oxygenated rocks -- and in fact the Victorian settlement does face currency fluctuation because the residents have to keep using up the rocks to breathe.

    7. You recall correctly! It was pretty funny and added another level of difficulty in the game where you can't splurge to your last "dollar".

    8. There was, in fact, a steel dragon in Greyhawk. ;)

    9. He should be glad he's not born in Krynn or it'd be harvest time.

  11. I prefer the Dragonlance setting over Forgotten Realms. I find the latter overrated. Forgotten Realms is all over the place when it comes to lore. Dragonlance has some stupid things in it (like steel for money), but it is generally more interesting to me because of how cohesive it is.

    I found having a Kinder to be the best way to deal with large crowds of enemies. You should make sure to keep them equiped with a Hoopak too. It works as long range and melee equally effectively. Taking out helpless enemies at no cost of ammunition at range.

    Oh as for the each new Gold Box game they do get some nifty changes. Like the Death Knights of Krynn improves a lot of the spell effects.

  12. Man, I have so much to say, but it is so late, and my migraine is coming back. But, but, I have to tell Chet about Eberron, and bits of Dragonlance history, and how it ties to the other TSR settings via Spelljammer....

    Anyway, I'll do that another time. For now I will say that the modern Dragonlance novels (as of when I stopped reading them close to 10 years ago anyway) were pretty terrible, as they kept aging the main, interesting characters and introducing new ones descended from the original ones. Also they kept letting game rules changes as they booted Dragonlance to different rules systems dictate changes in the novels. So Clerics lose all power at the end of the War of the Lance, when the start of the novels was Goldmoon getting her powers. Then they discover the power of heart or somesuch and now there are cleric powers again! Bleh.

    Oh, and I think a huge chunck of the reason the setting got popular was the amazing art done for it; I'd love to own prints of more of it, I have one Larry Elmore one, and a beat up poster of another painting.

  13. In terms of game setting I'd rather play one set in FR than Krynn.

    Krynn always feels like literature fanservice. FR has its fair share of issues but its flexible. There's tons of potential gods\locations\villians to base a game around.

    (Although, it would be nice if FR game designers\DMs would stop their boring obsession with Gandalfs clone, GaryStu Do'urden and pals, and having every campaign end up in either the elemental planes or the Underdark (or both).)

    Krynn is shackled to its lore like a corpse. FRs Lore is erratic, but at least you can go around it.

    (None of what I've just written makes the books bad, it just makes it a poor choice of game world.)

    1. That's kind of the sense that I have. In some ways, the game makes me feel like I'm not part of its club unless I've read the books. Then again, I felt a little the same about Azure Bonds.

    2. I partially agree. I actually prefer the Dragonlance books and setting in terms of plot etc. compared to Forgotten Realms. I didn't care for the newer books, but the old stuff I liked very much.

      However, I feel that the massive scope and flexibility of FR makes it much more suitable for placing your own games. So for a tabletop campaign I'd prefer FR, for reading I prefer Dragonlance. Or at least I did when I still read any of those books.
      I might again some day, I guess. I sold off my collection of FR and Dragonlance books about six years ago. I only kept my copies of Dragonlance Chronicles and Legends. Likewise I only have the campaign setting book for 3rd ed D&D for Forgotten Realms, no books for playing in Dragonlance.

    3. @Equlan - You hit the nail on the head, man. Dragonlance is a BITCH to play on table-top. Every campaign starts in Solace, every adventure has at least one goddamn Draconian enemy and every last battle always have players facing off Takhisis or an Ancient Dragon Overlord.

      And to ensure that it remains canonical, the party has to be THE original party or remain in the background as Nameless NPC #1, Generic Spellcaster #2, Token Kender Thief #3 and etc.

      I'd rather make my own world and setting.

    4. Kenny: It doesn't have to be. Why do you have to set it during the War of the Lance? There were some novels set during the reign of the last Priestking, and lots set during the Age of Strife. No clerics then, but lots of wizards and knights and fighters running around.

      Remember, the bits shown in the books aren't the only things happening.

      Lets take Star Wars for example, people keep saying it can't be a good RPG since you can't be the big heroes. Why do the people shown in the movie have to be the only heros around? Take a look at the X-Wing books: The only major character in them from the movies is Wedge Antillies (Luke's wingman), and I think later General Crix Madine (The guy who outlined the plan to attack Endor). They do big heroic stuff, save fleets and the Republic and things, and they were barely in the movies.

      I mean, what did the Alliance do before the main characters came along? Random ideas for big, heroic things you could do:
      1) Get the Death Star plans and give them to Leia (The first mission in the computer game Dark Forces actually)
      2) Get the 2nd Death Star plans (Covered in the book Shadows of the Empire).
      3) Track down Boba Fett to find where Han has gone

      Well, those are the two big ones that aren't covered in the movies. There is also taking over the Empire after the movies are done, and building the Alliance at the start of the war.

      Then there are lots of smaller missions: Sabotage missions, stealing ships, knocking off small imperial garrisons, planting false information.

      Its like, we know exactly who did what in World War II, but for about a decade two or three new FPS came out set during it each year. There are lots of untold stories in a world, stop focusing on that big, giant one that has already been told.

    5. Actually Dark Forces, X-Wing, Tie Fighter and Rogue Squadron would be my guides to how to write a story in those settings. None have great writing, but you can see the kind of ideas to run with.

      Also no Jedi. Damn Jedi.

    6. What? Not starting in Solace or fighting against Takhisis? Do you want my players to start a riot at the dinner table?

  14. "As much as I love the "Gold Box" engine, I'll be surprised if I'm not a bit fatigued by it come next year."

    I don't think you will. There are so many mediocre CRPGs from 1990 and 1991 that you will cherish every Gold Box game, even though the GB games from those years are among the weakest of the lot (Gateway, Secret, Buck Rogers and even your current game). I didn't play or even try all the cRPGs from those two years, so let's hope you uncover some gems.

    Your party is not too unlike mine.
    I had a Dwarf Fighter instead of the second Knight, and an Elf Fighter/Red Mage and a Human White Knight. The Fighter/Mage is the ultimate powerhouse and concentrated on self buffs like Haste, Mirror Image and "clever" spells like Slow, while the higher level White Mage concentrated on pure damage spells.
    But two Thieves who can backstab will be very useful in the first game, and in the second one the Kender/Thief will be extremely useful, especially if he's Enlarged. I've never had this spell fail, so your experience sounds weird. But I generally only cast Enlarge once the mages have reached a higher level.

    As for the character icons, this is exactly the reason why I chose to play the (much slower, but prettier) Amiga version; you have a choice of 20-30 different icons in the same style as the demo characters.

    I also read the first Dragonlance trilogy again before I played the Krynn games again last year. I was surprised that I still found them enjoyable. I also read the Riftwar series of four books before playing Betrayal at Krondor, and I think Feist's books have aged more badly.

    Did you find the Wand of Icestorm? To me it was extremely useful against the priests, mages and even the two young white dragons if they saved against Stinking Cloud (Cold Resistance only works against Cone of Cold, not Ice Storm). With it I was able to do the entire dungeon in one go without resting (seems a bit silly to rest, or even head back to HQ to train when you are hot on the heels of vile egg snatchers).

    1. Whoa, whoa, whoa, 1990 and 1991 RPGs include U6, Martian Dreams and Lord of the Rings 1 (all three on my list of best 10 RPGs ever), but also Savage Empire, M&M3, Wizardry 6, EoB1 which are must-plays.

    2. Must plays, yes, but still I think only Wiz 6 of these are as good as the all the best games released in 1989 and 1992-93.
      For U6 I used the Dungeon Siege remake (very good), since I couldn't stand the interface of U6 (and U7 for that matter).
      Lord of the Rings was too boring, with poor combat system.
      MM3 was a decline (too easy and too simplistic) compared to MM2, but I realize most would disagree, prefering the better UI and improved audiovisuals.
      EoB didn't age well, IMO, compared to Dungeon Master and Black Crypt. The AD&D system works very well turn based, but not so well in real time.

      Having played through 1990 and 1991, Wiz 6 was GOTY 1990 for me, and Civilization for 1991 (Pools of Darkness if judging only CRPGs).

    3. I couldn't play U6 - I hated the interface way too much.

    4. I did find the Wand of Ice Storm, but I didn't identify it until after the final battle, so it wasn't any help there. I'm glad I have it for future fights. I find that battles with clerics often simply come down to which of us can fire off "Hold Person" first. If they get the drop, I'll have two or three characters paralyzed from Round 1.

      With any luck, 1990 and 1991 will include plenty of good-but-forgotten games.

    5. A good tactic is to give wands and necklaces to your most dexterous guys, to prevent enemy spell casting.
      In case you don't know, wands can be used without identifying them first. Unless I already have som wands I make it a habit to test them ASAP if I can't ID them. You never know when a Wand of Ice Storm can make all the difference...it certainly made things easier in those caverns.

    6. Was this the world where enlarge only works on smaller races, or was that something from a pen and paper game I played once. Anyway test it out to see if your Kender always enlarges.

    7. "With any luck, 1990 and 1991 will include plenty of good-but-forgotten games." - unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. I've meddled (to different extents) with about 2/3 of what's on your list for 1990-91, and it's not that there aren't any decent underdogs, but they're all flawed in one way or another. Tunnels&Trolls is likely the only forgotten masterpiece you're going to find.

      (That said, I don't agree with PetrusOctavianus's assessment of the classics of the year - they're certainly at least on par with Goldboxes)

    8. Won't you be red when it turns out the 1/3 you skipped are all the crème de la crème.

    9. @UbAh - "Anyway test it out to see if your Kender always enlarges." Why does it sound so obscene to me?

      Anyway, am I the only one here who thinks that U6 is a vast achievement that basically laid the foundations of MMORPGing (even though I hate MMORPGs to the core)?

      But yeah, I concur that Wizardry 6 is just too great a game to be anything less than GOTY 1990. M&M3, couldn't hold a candle (even if it holds Dreax in it) to it and M&M4 only barely rivals it with its 2 expansions.

    10. Unlikely, there's a reason I skipped them ;)

    11. @Kenny McCormick - I have a gift for making anything obscene

    12. Riigghht... that makes the both of us. Hey... is your avatar naked?! No, please don't tell me!!!

    13. Of the 1990-1991 games there are three I kind of wish I had given a second chance:
      Disciples of Steel
      Magic Candle 2

      The first one due to it being said to be buggy and I have an extreme distrust of anything made in Japan, even though it was produced by Jon van Caneghem and released by New World.

      The two others due to clucky interface and too much walking around in huge empty cities trying to find something interesting. I much prefer menu towns.
      MC2 also lacked the party splitting of its predecessor and is said to be even more combat heavy.
      Disciples OTOH is supposed to have good combat, but I never got that far. It did have a nice character generation system, but it looked butt ugly for a 1994 DOS game (original was 1991 Atari ST).

      So I'll be very interested in Chet's take on those three game.

    14. Huh? Tunnels & Trolls was made in Japan. Odd, Ken St. Andre, the creator of the tabletop RPG is from the US. Also, a cool guy to follow on twitter. https://twitter.com/trollgodfather

    15. T&T has bugs, yes, but they're nothing gamebreaking (mostly just minor annoyances) and there aren't that many of them anyway.

      Disciples of Steel is much like Knights of Legend - overly detailed combat and not much else. Probably, even less else than in KoL. In other worlds - boring as hell. I never played MC2, but it seems to be universal consensus that it's vastly inferior to the first and third parts.

    16. *words, not worlds
      quite the opposite - in other worlds is probably where DoS could be a fun game ;))

    17. Lord of the Rings 1 is far from being a boring game. Yes the inventory is crap, yes the combat could be better. But the exploration is very good and they added so many subquests and NPCs to the book's "canon" that the game "almost improves" on the book! ;)

    18. I dunno, for me what kills all the fun is that it's a plot-heavy game where you know all the plot in advance. A funny thing: the game, like many of the era, makes use of printed paragraphs to advance the plot. But I got it from an abandonware site, without a manual, so I just used the original books instead - and I don't think I actually missed anything.

      (I might be biased, though. Since I hold LotR more as a work of literary fiction than run-of-the-mill fantasy, I'm quite biased against its more "pop" adaptations in general. Totally hated the movies, for example)

  15. While I was a big fan of the Dragonlance novels back in the day, I don't have anything to add that hasn't already been said by those much more knowledgeable than I.

    Rather, I'm simply surprised to see someone else using the CMS/Gameblaster setting. It gets a bad rap for being 'PC Speaker Plus', not many games really supported the thing thanks to Adlib, and I think DOSBox has issues with emulating it properly. But I have a genuine CMS and it really doesn't sound that bad.

    Pretty much any game by Sierra is going to use whatever audio hardware you have to its best ability. They were huge on sound and pioneered the Roland MT-32, though at an incredible price.

    1. We've had LONG discussions of the MT-32 and how to get it working over at the Adventure Gamer. We should really get Chet to set it up, though he normally plays with the music off I understand.

    2. I don't care about music, but I like better sound effects. Fortunately, we'll be in the SoundBlaster era soon.

    3. Chet: You should look into using the MT-32: Check out it vs the Soundblaster: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjgHbSXMOR0 and a lot of games used it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_MT-32-compatible_computer_games

    4. The MT-32 was okay-ish for music, even if it ussually sounded sterile. However, for sound effects, it wasn't much better than the PC speaker. Sometimes even worse -- you COULD squeeze some pretty good digitized sound out of the thing, check out games with Access' RealSound engine, it's fantastic. (No CRPGs, unfortunately...)

  16. Talk about stirring up some huge memories here. This trio of games were favorites of mine back then, and I spent so many days reading the books of Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance. Just you calling out 'Sir Karl' by name got me to grin.

  17. Great Game! This is one of the best in my view. I ran all elf parties sometimes. All but one or two were spell casters and so I was able to level the playing field early on. The Kender taunt can be good as I think it reduces the AC of your enemies. I find that Thotl is just a training ground for you, much like the slums in Pool of Radiance.

    As other posters have said, its a bit linear, but the pace is good and you really feel like you are in a world where there are other players and not just yourself. I am talking about people like Caramon, Karl and Maya.

    Be sure to look up those draconian stats, each has special attacks and/or defenses. I still have the DOS version of the game with the manual.

  18. I love the gold-box games. Champions of Krynn and Death Knights of Krynn are my two absolute favorites when it comes to story. They are both rather deep in story (much more so than the Forgotten Realms games) and many themes carry over from one game to the next.

    I blogged about this game myself here: http://dmrealm.blogspot.com/ in a blog that started out inspired by this blog. After a while, I got too busy between school and coding my own RPG project (which you can read about here: http://landsadventure.blogspot.com/ ).

    Seriously, I think you're going to love this game if you haven't played it before or if you don't remember it.

    1. I know I played it because I remember Draconians that turned to acid and exploded and such. But I don't remember anything about the plot, which is good.

    2. I wish I didn't remember the plot. Then I could play it again without knowing the story.

      The draconians themselves are interesting. Coming up with the right tactics to beat them, or better yet, using their own abilities against them, is a lot of fun. If you like tactical combat, you should enjoy some aspects of it.

  19. Circa 1st edition AD&D, Forgotten Realm was a sandbox setting whereas Dragonlance was very focused on a single narrative.

    That made setting games in FR very easy (back then, large expanses of land were blank slates, and the lore cruft was sparse enough that you could run game without going against canon.)

    As a source for fiction, however, it is cursed. Any book with Forgotten Realms on the cover is doomed to be gouge-out-your-eyes bad. The best of them (the first Drizzt trilogy) are still very terrible books that you should be ashamed of reading.

    Also, as it progresses in time, the lore-cruft becomes crippling. The Baldur's Gate games are set *just* before the lore-cruft causes the setting to collapse into unusability.

    Dragonlance, on the other hand, was pretty good for fiction. The Chronicle trilogy is okay Young Adult literature once you get past the first book, the Legend trilogy is downright good, and the remaining series vary from mediocre to good.

    As a game setting (circa AD&D 1e) it's very focused but very constrained. There's really nothing you can do in there that isn't overshadowed by the official cast's adventures. The best you can do is what they did with the Krynn Gold Boxes, which is to effectively run your adventures into a parallel universe where Raistlin and co. don't actually do everything worth doing.

    Once you go further in time (i.e. AD&D 2nd edition) you get a bit more leeway to adventure. I mean, you're still clearly running against canon if you let your PCs do anything remotely world-affecting, but at least you've got room for mid-level stuff.

    1. I think this is a good summary and fits with my (admittedly limited) experience in both campaign worlds.

      I don't understand why people post such insightful stuff as "Anonymous." You don't have to have an account to give yourself a name, you know. Just pick "Name/URL" as the option, enter your handle, and skip the URL part.

    2. In that case, Chet, you may attribute all such sagely anonymous posts to me. I'll bear the heavy burden of claiming those credit to my already heavy laden self. XD

    3. I disagree with Anonymous here that Forgotten Realms as a source of fiction is bad.

      Granted I'm more biased towards FR than Dragonlance, but let's face it both series have their good and bad books.

      With FR, I don't think anyone would look to the Drizzt novels or Ed Greenwood's books as the paragon of the setting.

      Me I'd look at the Avatar series (the original trilogy as well as the two subsequent novels that make the quintet) as the highlight of the setting.

      Elaine Cunningham's work on what is now know as the Song and Sword series also came out very well (where Arilyn Moonblade, Danilo Thann and Elaith Craulnober are introduced).

      Her Counselors and Kings series highlighting Halruaa also came out as very readable.

      The Return of the Archwizards series was also a good read, focusing on the return of the floating citadel known as Shade which disappeared during the end of the Netheril empire.

      I'd thrown in Paul S Kemp's work on the Erevis Cale novels as being very good too, and his Twilight War series continues on about Shade too.

      Whilst R.A. Salvatore has basically bled the Drizzt and underdark stories to the death -
      the first six were the highlight, Dark Elf followed by Icewind Dale trilogy) things sort of went downhill after that - The War of the Spider Queen sextet (which also occurs mainly in the underdark) was a decent read although there were some continuity issues here and there.

      The Finder's Stone trilogy (Azure Bonds - where the game from - being book one :p) also came out decently.

      With Dragonlance you have the Chronicles (original three for me, the subsequent ones I found bad) and Legends as their highlight.

      I looked over the list of Dragonlance novels and whilst some of the anthologies had interesting stories, I don't really see anything I'd want to read again in all honesty.

      Well except for maybe Lord Toede, which I found very entertaining.

      This is just my two cents worth on the two different settings. Note though that I haven't read any new FR novels that may have been written in a post Spellplague situation. So I don't know what the series is like now.

    4. I already bear a striking resemblance to Edward Snowden, perhaps I should post anonymously as well

    5. "Me I'd look at the Avatar series (the original trilogy as well as the two subsequent novels that make the quintet) as the highlight of the setting."

      Maybe it's just a really, really bad German translation but the avatar trilogy was hands down the worst fantasy I've ever read.

      Dragonlance wasn't bad as a Tolkien inspired story and I enjoyed reading it. Basically a new take on of the Tolkien formular with less good writing but more believable characters.

    6. Wow, you lists books on your best of list that I'd put on my 'worst of' list.

      Basically, books that don't try and be really 'big' stories work in both settings; There were lots of good Dragonlance short stories (My beloved Kang's regiment had some excellent short stories in Dragon Magazine), and there was a great story who's name I forget about a Knight of Solomnia and a Minotaur and what each believes to be honourable: Very setting specific, but not a 'big, epic' story.

      LIkewise, the forgotten realms has some very intresting stories: The aformentioned Erevis Cale novels for example, though I prefer the earlier ones about the family, to the ones about Cale himself. There is a lot of magic, but in the end, they are the stories of the troubles of a wealthy family, and their shadowy and/or decadent members: The mother who isn't who she claims to be (Great Dragon Magazine short story about that), the Butler with a shadowy past, the Father with a storid past with the elves, the foppish son, the son who wants to be an actor, the daughter and her larcenous tenancies (Another great short story as I recall)... They aren't saving the world: They are trying to survive, hold onto their money and businesses, and keep their name intact.

      The other advantage with the smaller stories, is you don't have to include so much of the setting background, as they are local, small, and often unconcerned with the mighty goings on that are changing the world, as they are mighty and far away from the small inn, dungeon or such that the story takes place in.

    7. Worst thing I've ever (tried to) read is the Pools of Darkness novel. It's such utter trite that it makes Dragonlance look like Nobel Prize material.

    8. Ok, from memory I'd put The Night Parade (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers, #4) as the worst I can think of off the top of my head. However, the later Ed Greenwood ones got pretty terrible, that or I grew up and realized he only has one female character and two male characters and just gives them new names each time. The later Twilight Giants books were also quite bad (and an example of a book with the FR label slapped on it, as the mythology in the book doesn't match the rest of the Forgotten Realms at all.)

      Oh and The Avatar series, lets have gods run around acting like spoiled brats.

    9. OH, and the Maztica trilogy ripped of real world history rather badly and yet closely enough to make the plot painfully obvious.

    10. I agreed with AAY that some of the early Forgotten Realm books are pretty good. My first Forgotten Realm novel was actually Pool of Radiance which I started reading while I was playing Curse of the Azure Bonds. I read the Azure Bonds after as well as the rest of the trilogy. Unfortunately I could get into the later series after 2000s. I believe the last series I read is a trilogy about the Threat from the Sea series. After that I just don't bother anything with the Forgotten Realm settings except the two Neverwinter Night games. I was going to take a look at the Eliminster series but didn't bother. After all, here we have two characters, Eliminster and Moonsoon. Both had battled each other and got killed multiple times. And yet, they continue to live on because of some power they have which allow them to move to another body? Well, it got tired rather quickly.

      Now I did read a lot of the Dragonlance books and actually got the 3.5Ed of the Dragonlance book just for the heck of it but alas, Wiz. quickly destroyed the series so oh well. Anyhow, I just installed Death Knight of Krynn and might give it a run about. Thanks for the entertaining readings.

  20. Your sentence about re-trying the fight with cold resistance spells memorized does sum up quite nicely what I dislike about AD&D2 magic. You can almost never react to a battle situation with minor spells without first casting power word: load.

    1. To be fair, the game did give me some hint as to the presence of the white dragons before I actually encountered them. I could have memorized the spells at any time, especially since I had three clerics going. But I agree that this happens a lot in other circumstances.

    2. Pathfinder and some later editions of D&D help with this: In Pathfinder a wizard without a familar can swap out one spell they have memorized for one spell in their spellbook, once a day. Also, in D&D3e scrolls are pretty cheap to make, so you can just make scrolls of a lot of those highly situtational spells: (1st level: 12.5 gp and 1XP, though it scales up from there.) My Dad did that when he played a wizard.

    3. The dark sun games don't have this problem, you memorize your quota of spells per level and can then cast any spell you see fit. Such a simple change but it makes the world of difference

  21. Love this game and those that directly follow!

    Anyway, there's enough people saying that, but I don't think anyone's given you the correct answer to your spellcasting woes yet: pay closer attention and I think you'll find Enlarge is failing on three of your six characters... because they're elves. It's been a good 10-12 years since I played this series last, but I'm fairly sure this is your problem!

    1. Enlarge should work on Elves; I can't remember it ever failing when I had elves in my party. The only way it should fail is if the target has magic resistance (which none of the races have) or of the mage's level is too low compared to the target's natural STR (I think a lvl 1 mage casting Enlarge on a character with 18(00) STR will fail, but I'm not sure).

    2. Okay, I just verified that it fails on any character with a strength in the 18s and works on any character with a strength lower. One of the latter is an elf. I thought the spell did more than just increase strength, though.

    3. I guess by fail, they just added a message to indicate when it doesn't do anything.

      If your spellcasters hit Lvl 6, it'll probably start working better (I think it gets bumped to 18(00) at that point.)

    4. It says "[Character] resists the spell." I'll keep trying as I increase in levels.

  22. Oh I loved the books when they 1st came out and loved this game, although I imagine the books have aged pretty badly, or rather the adult me won't rate them as highly.

    I'm always amazed when I read these comments that people say things like "I played this when it came out and don't remember it too well, but in the last area of the keep the mage has a lot of hit points, so remember to use the ring you got from the demon-troll". Or something. All I can ever remember is the box art, and even then not too well. Alcohol must have turned my memory to mush.

    1. You take that back! Alcohol is the one pure truth and could never be harmful.

    2. That's what I thought too. Until I tried mushrooms.

    3. I tend to easily forget games I played only once, though blogging about them has really helped with the retention. I know I played Might & Magic IX once, but honestly the only thing I remember (other than thinking it sucked in general) is fighting some god at the end. And I think there were pre-Skyrim references to jarls.

      I'm pretty sure I played MM4 or MM5, but my remembrance is limited to "right this way to the action-packed, treasure-filled mines of the Green Dwarf Range!"

  23. A good writing team can create a compelling story in pretty much any setting.

    Restrictions/Limitations breed creativity as they say.

    I wouldn't say any D&D source material I've encountered has had much philosophical depth or coherence to it, but as Chris Avellone demonstrated with Planescape, it's not a barrier to rich storytelling.

  24. surprised you did not talk about the 3 moons and the affect on magic.

    1. I can only see 2! What happened to my poor useless eyes?!

    2. Stupid moon system. I like time-sensitive occurrences but not at the expense of gameplay.

    3. Chet usually covers mechanics piecemeal so not to overwhelm readers with information. Otherwise, he'll have to cover the same thing as his own understanding increases. I think he also does this to avoid a first post heavy with exposition while all others would follow with plot (and play experience).

    4. Freaking moons?! Is THAT why my mages keep losing spells and always have fewer spells than their available slots?

    5. or he failed to read the manual? ;)

    6. It's actually a rather useful mechanic.

      If you're forced to have to fight a battle that requires your party to be at least 1 or 2 levels higher to have any chance of winning, wait till the moons come into the most advantageous phases (Nuitari as a New Moon with the other two as Full Moons).

  25. Oh and don't bother upgrading your knights. They have to tithe more, they take much longer to level up and just gain a couple paltry spells.

    1. Paladins get a couple of paltry spells. Knights of the Sword and Knights of the Rose OTOH get quite a decent amount of spells and can in due time even cast lvl 7 spells.
      I'd promote the Knight to Knight of Swords when reaching 2.1 million XP (lvl 13). Then he gets the maximum two attacks per round and he starts getting lvl 5 spells. Or wait until lvl 14 when he gets the lvl 6 spells. One Heal spell can turn a pitched battle.
      Also higher ranked Knights get better leadership bonus, but that is not as important.

    2. So in other words, don't tithe till DQK :)

    3. You didn't promote all the way to Knight of the Rose, I hope? The first promotion isn't too bad.

    4. Yes, I did. I wanted to be the best.

    5. "He wants to be the very best, to train them in his cause"

    6. Dammit, you beat me to it.

      Only 6 more in game years until we have to badger Chet into playing Pokemon, and we have the giant flamewar about if he should play Blue or Red.

      Hell, I will MAIL Chat an original Gameboy so he gets the authentic experience. He can't have the Blue cartridge though, that have my save game on it. I might be able to send him my brother's Red cart, or the Yellow I got at a garage sale.

      If he wants to be lame he could also use a Gameboy Colour or original Advance (The easiest on adult hands, due to the wider layout)

    7. I have never even remotely understood Pokemon. When I was a kid, we played with giant robots and dragons and ninjas. These kids of the 1990s...they played with little yellow mice or something.

    8. The small cute ones usually turn into something badass later in the game: The best starter pokemone Squirtle is a cute little turtle, that turns into a giant tortus with CANNONS on its back: http://images.sodahead.com/polls/001286977/blastoise_cor_answer_3_xlarge.gif

      One of the other ones turns into a giant fire breathing dragon.

      My personal favourite is Syther, which is what would happen if you made a vaulgy humanoid flying preying mantis, then replaced its arms with scythes.

      Looking online the art has gotten a lot more cutsey since I stopped playing though :(

    9. I don't know. To me, that "badass" turtle with a cannon on his back still looks like a toddler's toy.

    10. They looked more badass in Grade 5.

    11. It still looks badass now.


    12. Canageek not sure if you'd read this but is your save file still on your blue cartridge? I tried my red the other day and the file is gone, said something about battery being dead, it saddened me greatly.

      Chet maybe you had to grow up in the 90s but I loved Pokemon, and Scyther was the man.

    13. Bakuiel: I have no idea, I've since moved to the other side of the country and my cartridge is still at my parents. I'd probably want to start over anyway, I was pretty suck as I recall. I'd misplaced both the Surf HM and the pokemon I'd put it on, and was out of money as well.

    14. It isn't hard to replace a battery in an old GB(C) cartridge, as it's a standard watch battery (I think NES carts used the same one, not sure about GBA), and the biggest difficulty is getting the security screw off (easy solution is to take the ink cartridge out of a cheap plastic pen, heat it up, and jam it onto the screw, forging a good-enough screwdriver). Just break the solder connections on the old battery and tape the new one in place.

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I don't know. It's large, it's heavy, and it has little spots all over it. Why?

  27. The major unit of currency of the Dragonlance world is "steel pieces." (It strikes me as kind of stupid to make your currency unit something needed for armor and weapons and such.)

    I actually though this one was really clever. before electricity, gold is a somewhat useless metal. In an era torn by warfare gold loses it is value, since luxuries are not nearly as improtant actual usefull stuff. So having a fortune of steel pieces means you can actually melt it and equip an army, while gold is pretty but useless.

    the only reason gold is valuable is because it is pretty and rare, and thus people want it, but steel is valuable in itself.

    1. Mostly agreed. Gold was essentially the original common currency in the real world- and one of the reasons it was used as currency was that it had a relatively high inherent value compared to its weight (though gold has always had practical uses.) In addition, it was originally found just lying around in (small) pieces, just like rocks. Of course, for at least the past few hundred years, its value as a trade commodity has far dwarfed its innate value (except for a few applications- for example, many electronics have tiny amounts of gold in them.) In an alternate universe where gold doesn't exist, steel taking on a similar role seems very believable (this coming from an economist and not a chemist.)

    2. Gold was the original common currency because it's rare (but not so rare that you can't find enough to use as currency), easily-identifiable, and easy to purify and craft. It doesn't have much utilitarian value.

      Every civilization has eventually shifted from a commodity economy to a commodity based on a non-utilitarian item. It's the only way to keep an economy stable. The argument that "steel pieces have actual value" completely misses the point: it's BECAUSE steel has actual value that it makes a bad currency.

    3. This really annoys the pants off chemists. Do you have any idea how much cheaper and better we could make a ton of industrial and fine chemical processes if you lot would stop wasting gold and platinum on jewellery and trade goods? How much less we'd have to spend running our lab, doing useful things?

      (Gold is one of the two metals I use the most, and I'm moving into platinum chemistry. Both have very, very useful properties. I'm glad the other metal I use is uranium, which is dirt cheap.)

    4. I realize you're mostly kidding, but I want to emphasize that although we eventually did find uses for gold and platinum, their use as currency vastly pre-dates any utilitarian value. They are not "commodity money" just because someone eventually found a use for them in chemistry and electronics.

    5. I am quite aware. We just wish that people would STOP using them for that things and pick something random and useless to fixate on. Say, Yttrium, it has really boring chemistry.

  28. Finally getting to play this time! Want to have it won so I can play its sequel with you.

    Thus far, I think I'm still in shock over how hard they made the game from square one. No time to get used to the interface. Nope, you have to navigate arcane tables in the manuals to equip as best weapons and armor as you can with limited money before heading out and immediately getting into a tough combat. A newbie that forgets to (R)eady his equipment would be sunk immediately, even if he knew he needed to shop. I'm also finding the first zone in Throtl to be a it more difficult than I expected as the random combats seem harder than the scripted ones, but give less gold and experience...


  29. When I first played some of those games (a few years after they came out in the early 90s), Champions was my favorite because I basically read the first bunch of Dragonlance books parallel to those games. The world felt better fleshed out and more interesting than forgotten realms. Overall, I found it much more atmospheric.

    This game is the most linearly plotted of all the Gold Box games, I guess but that makes it easier to some extent. I also found that the multi-class characters that started often at the 2nd lvl with more spells made the earlier battles overall easier. Although it is true that some of the draconians, magic-users and of course dragons are particular challenges. The Kender's yelling is very useful in Champions because it reduces stats of anyone affected and works well with humans and humanoids.
    But I recently played Death Knights and the Kender was much less useful there. (I had knight, ranger, kender cleric/thief, elvish cleric/white mage, fighter/red mage, fighter/white mage/cleric.) Very probably a Paladin or a Fighter/Cleric would have been more useful than a Cleric/Thief although I got a few chances to backstab Skeletal Warriors. It's been years that I played Dark Queen but I think I skipped the Kender there and went with Knight, Paladin, Ranger and three elvish multiclass magic-users, probably one cleric/white mage, one fighter/red mage/thief and one fighter/mage/cleric (do not remember exactly) Although with a high lvl Knight and a Paladin one does not need two more clerics (but I am not so fond of having paladins at all in a setting where the Solamnic Knights basicall replace the "paladin class").

    Knights advance fairly slowly, therefore one should not too early switch to Knight of the Sword or Rose. Therefore I would probably not play with two knights (as there is only one Dragonlance in each of the games, I think). I

    1. I've never had a problem promoting Knights immediately. Tbh that warning from the Journal is a bit of a false lead.

    2. Don't you have to gain several lvls before being applicable for the higher orders?
      I don't remember the details but it is undeniable that the higher order knights gain lvls MUCH more slowly. So before the lvls when the higher order knights become eligible for priest spells I would always go with the basic Knight of the Crown (it also makes more sense for "junior" adventurers). When I recently played Death Knights I played with a Knight of the Crown until he reached a lvl where he only gained fixes 3 HP per lvl and then changed to Knight of the Sword (more precisely changed when he had enough XP to lose only the last lvl when changing orders). I never made him Knight of the Rose. There are not so many battles where the leadership ability matters and often he would be given leadership even as Knight of the Sword.
      Or do the higher order knights gain more xp? That would not make any sense.

    3. You can become a Knight of the Sword at Level 3 and a Knight of the Rose at Level 4, so the necessary levels aren't very high.

      A Knight of the Sword needs about 50% more experience points than a Knight of the Crown for the same level; a Knight of the Rose needs almost twice the experience as a KotS for the same level. I don't know if it's worth it or not.

    4. The prestige itself is, yes, freaking worth it. At least on tabletop.

    5. By immediately I meant "as soon as you hit a high enough level to swap".

    6. Yeah, stupid journal. The actual upgrading requires passing a test (only 1 try, fail and you can never change to the higher-tier knighthood) and then going through a knighting ceremony.

  30. I'm playing through this game for the second time, now that the Gold Box series is nearly finished on this blog.

    The game is a LOT easier if you go with the journal's suggestions. Being an expert on neither Gold Box nor AD&D, my first party just barely scraped by and was basically too weak to get anywhere in Death Knights. In my current playthrough, with everybody multiclassed and rocking much higher stats, the difficulty seems far more reasonable.

  31. I didn't read all comments but there seem to be many that like the Dragonlance books. I'm surprised to be honest. I tried the first one maybe 20 years back and put it down rather fast because I found the writing way too juvenile und uninteresting.
    And that was before I read the Song of Ice and Fire and the Malazan Book of the Fallen so I'd expect my reaction today to be even more negative.

    1. I don't think anyone is going to argue they were high literature, but they delivered what a lot of people wanted at the time, which was shlocky fun fantasy stories. Plus a lot of people (like me) read them at impressionable ages, so while I probably wouldn't have great thoughts about them if I went back and read them, they were good when I was in grade 7.

      Also: since there were so many authors writing them, the quality is *all over the place*.

      If you want to know the appeal, I think this blogger (who is reading all of the Forgotten Realms novels in publication order and reviewing them critically) explains it quite well: https://letsreadtsr.com/about/

    2. At their worst, the Dragonlance books are far better written that Song Of Ice And Fire or Malazan.

    3. There's no gainsaying opinion, but it still seems bananas to come here and say something like that declaratively without proceeding it with something like "I know this opinion is going to make me sound bat@#% crazy, but here goes:"

    4. While I admit that was written in a bit of a fit of pique, it wouldn't be controversial in a lot of the circles I travel in.

      A Song Of Ice And Fire gets a lot of reputation for being new and fresh, but it doesn't hold up to any real scrutiny.

      The big problem with the work is that, in an effort to be iconoclastic and show "what a typical fantasy setting would really be like", it goes too far in the other direction. There have been times when historical nobility acted much like the ones in the books. Coincidentally, those times very often happened to also include things called "The Great Peasant Uprising" or "The Peasant War".

      Malazan, I know less of. I couldn't get more than thirty pages in, and remember nothing.

    5. I read ASOIAF a few years ago and found the prose pretty serviceable. To compare, I have just grabbed a Dragonlance book from the shelf above me, and opened it to random page:

      "How long have I been standing here?" he asked out loud, blinking, the sound of his voice lifting the fascinating, lascivious spell of the room. "And where's Earwig?" Glancing about nervously, the fighter searched the room. He found nothing, no sign of a kender.
      "I should leave," he said, leaning on a smooth, black-stained table painted with orange flowers and green leaves. The wood felt surprisingly warm under his palms. Without thinking, he took hold of a piece of cloth that had been thrown casually on the table, his fingers caressing it. Moving to sit on the bed, he held the cloth without noticing what he was doing, working his hands over the cool, smooth fabric.
      "The councillor is the most magnificent woman I've ever seen," he murmured. The cloth was growing warm beneath his fingers. "I wonder what she's like?" Caramon said very softly.
      Rising to his feet, he walked over to the full mirror again, studying his face — a face many considered handsome. His body was scarred from numerous battles, his muscles held unmatched strength. Drawing a deep breath, the fighter watched his huge chest expand, his arms grow firm. Then he saw what he held in his hand.
      "What am I doing?" Face burning in embarrassment, he
      moved swiftly back to the table, starting to replace the black-silk shawl he had been fondling, when a high-pitched voice shrilled behind him.
      "What have you got in your hand, Caramon?"
      "Nothing!" he yelled, spinning to face the kender, who was gazing up and smiling at the fighter,
      "What's that?" Earwig asked, reaching around Caramon to the table.
      "Don't touch it!" the warrior said quickly. "Just something of... of the councillor's."

      (No commentary required)

  32. The_Liquid_LaserMay 5, 2021 at 4:47 PM

    I don't know if I have a favorite D&D world. They are all fun for different reasons. Forgotten Realms, as a whole, is kind of themeless, because it fits the "kitchen sink" approach. You can play just about any kind of fantasy adventure you want there. All of the other worlds are a nice change of pace compared to FR, and that includes Dragonlance. There is a little bit of difference in races, classes and monsters that it still feels different enough from FR. But if I could only pick one world to play in, then I would choose FR over Dragonlance.

    1. My favorite is Planescape, hands down. Followed by Ravenloft, Athas, and Spelljammer, not necessarily in that order. Honestly, I've never been a Dragonlance fan; I'd put it near the bottom of my list (even after the Forgotten Realms, which I'm also not particularly fond of, if only because it strikes me as kind of generic). But of course this is all a matter of taste, and there's nothing wrong with people who like it.

    2. Oh, and this being a CRPG-centered site, I should probably specify that my affection for Planescape has nothing to do with Planescape: Torment, which I've in fact never played. My love for the setting is based entirely on the tabletop source material. (I do have a copy of Planescape: Torment, though, and really ought to get around to playing it one of these days.)

    3. The_Liquid_LaserMay 6, 2021 at 3:06 PM

      I've never played in Planescape (tabletop or CRPG). I think Dark Sun is great. The most I've played in any D&D world was a Dark Sun game. However, I was the one running the game. I wouldn't mind a chance to run a character of my own through a decent sized Dark Sun campaign. Ravenloft and Spelljammer are both fun settings too, and I've done some playing and DMing in both.

  33. A minor thing, but from memory the god is called Kiri-Jolith, not Kiri-Jouth. I suspect the font tripped you up.

    Like many others who've commented, I prefer the Dragonlance setting over FR - it feels more curated to me. I enjoyed the plot of the Chronicles trilogy as an early teen, although even then I thought the writing was a little painful. I thought the Legends books, which focused on Raistlin and Caramon, were great. I haven't ventured too far beyond those core books, although I thought Richard Knaak had a couple of decent ones about Huma and Kaz, two early-era heroes.

    Looking forward to reading about your experiences of these games.

  34. Hi lads and lasses, I have an art project where I want to turn digital pixel art into real life felt art. There is a lot of good old Goldbox stuff to be found. If anyone is interested, here is a little gallery:



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