Doug Niles: Chaos Spawn Dragons Attack Palanthas!

TSRO_Zugran: Welcome to Wizards/TSR Online chat series. Tonight we are featuring Douglas Niles. The topic? Dragonlance: Chaos Spawn Dragons Attack Palanthas! Douglas Niles, would you like to open with a few comments/statements?

Doug_Niles: Sure. I’d be glad to talk about any aspect of Dragonlance people are interested in. It’s a unique line, and it’s been great to be involved with it.

TSRO_Durst: Okay then, I’ve got a question. What is it about the Dragonlance world that appeals to you the most?

Doug_Niles: The fact that it is a world constructed around a story. Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis created this elaborate epic tale involving the return of dragons after a long disappearance. And there was so much potential in those stories that the tale has been growing for more than a decade. It really taps into universal mythic themes. Good vs. evil, the duality of human nature, faith, etc.

TheRonin: Was it always the idea to have dragons playing such an important part? I feel they are the most fascinating of all creatures in AD&D.

Doug_Niles: Yes. Dragonlance really put dragons on the pedestal they deserve, instead of treating them just as big, tough monsters. The original concept involved 12 game modules, each built around one of the colors of dragons. Dragons have a fascinating history. That’s one of the best things about Dragonlance, I think, is that all the peoples have elaborate and interlocking histories.

MLMartin: Mr. Niles, you’re one of the few people to have worked on all three major campaign eras of Dragonlance: The War of the Lance, the Chaos War, and The Fifth Age. What are your feelings about these three portions of Ansalonian history?

Doug_Niles: Actually, they are the continuation of earlier ages: Huma’s War, Kinslayer War, and The First Dragon War. Sometimes I feel a little sorry for the world–the big wars seeming to be getting closer together! Certainly the challenges of the Fifth Age supersede anything that has come before.

TSRO_Zugran: What can you tell us about Chaos Spawn?

Doug_Niles: That’s a game product that combines the systems for Saga rules and AD&D. It allows PCs to take any of a number of roles, and puts forces that are traditional enemies (Knights of Takhisis/Solamnia) into alliances against truly horrible foes. Some of this involves big, freewheeling sky battles, which is something I’ve always liked about fantasy. I like the comparisons between fantasy battles and real military tactics. In Chaos Spawn, the climax of the adventure occurs on a huge, roiling cloud of chaos, which is much like an aircraft carrier in 20th century tactics. Oh, and watch that first step–it’s a doozy. Fire dragons make exceptionally unpleasant opponents in aerial battles, I think. I really like those dragons because they’re chaos. After all, it almost INVITES a game designer to break the rules.

TSRO_Durst: What will become of Palanthas in the realm? Is it me, or does the city’s status seem to be diminishing? Palanthas was once the crown jewel of Ansalon, but to me it seems as if its influence is dwindling.

Doug_Niles: Palanthas is the jewel of Ansalon in a lot of ways–you said it. Still, it’s a symbolic center, and also important port. It dominates its corner of the continent. Also, the forces of chaos seemed to focus their attacks on population centers, and it’s a BIG city.

Nightdruid: What is Palanthas’ population?

Doug_Niles: I would say it’s the Rome of its time. My guess is 1/4 to a 1/2 million people. 100,000 is probably closer, as I think about it. More like medieval London I suppose. Getting back to the adventure; in Chaos Spawn the blue and silver dragons are allies, against chaos. It can be played with or without dragon mounts, but I always recommend using dragons when they offer to help. In the game, I am particularly fond of the silver dragons. Maybe it’s because of some of Larry Elmore’s first paintings of Silvara. To me, the silver dragons symbolize a kind of Arthurian Ideal; with a few imperfections.

Nightdruid: Elmore is very cool. His Dragonlance pictures are awesome.

Doug_Niles: Yes. Another of the great things about Dragonlance is that the artists and writers worked together from the very conception of the idea. Especially Larry and Tracy. Todd Lockwood has done some really nice pieces too. I loved the Chaos Spawn cover.

MLMartin: Speaking of silver dragons, I have to say that I really enjoyed Odyssey of Gilthanas. You, Steve Miller, and Stan! really put together one great product there.

Doug_Niles: Again, as with the world itself, I think the inspiration for the art comes from the stories. Thanks so much for the compliment. I have always liked Gil’s story. I got to do module DL9, which is where Gil and Silvara discover the corruption of the dragon eggs.

Nightdruid: Will Dragonlance remain Saga, go back to AD&D, or be just novels?

Doug_Niles: I don’t know where it’s going, but history has shown it’s adaptable regardless. I’m working on a novel trilogy now, set in the Icewall region. Beginning about 600PC. One of the ideas is that it be a story totally removed from the main storylines. The first book is the story of a Silvanesti elf Exiled (the working title) from his homeland. He sails south and finds a hitherto undiscovered country.

TSRO_Zugran: Sounds great. Nice meeting you Douglas Niles, great chatting. I hope to see you again soon.

Doug_Niles: Thanks for hosting, and having me. It’s been fun–and my first ever chat room experience. Nice meeting you all! Good gaming to all, and to all a good night!

About Doug Niles

Douglas Niles is a fantasy author and game designer. Niles was one of the creators of the Dragonlance world and the author of the first three Forgotten Realms novels, and the Top Secret S/I espionage role-playing game. He currently resides in Delavan, Wisconsin with his wife, Christine, and two Bouviets, Reggie and Stella. He enjoys playing his guitar, cooking, and visiting with family.
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