Hey folks. Some of you might recall that around my birthday every year, I like to ruminate about where DL went last year, where its going next year, and how the thing is doing as a whole. It helps me remember why I’m still around every year =) This year was a relatively slow one, with only War of the Lance and the YA books striking me as big changes, so I thought I’d reflect on the 3.5 update as a whole.
As i look back at the books we’ve gotten so far, i see that they’ve become exponentially better as they’ve gone along, from the paltry DLCS to the amazing War of the Lance. But I’ve noticed a disturbing trend- the books don’t actually show the campaign setting as it is, but rather show a distorted snapshot of a time period that never existed.
The DLCS shows a dragonlance caught in the blink of an eye. Overlords are alive, Mina isn’t Chemoshian though it’s slyly insinuated, titans exist, and other such discrepancies fill the book. A DM who wants to play in the most current era of DL would pick it up and find himself disappointed. The AoM update only slightly alleviates this issue, and exacerbates it in other regards.
Similarly, the Towers of High Sorcery book is incomplete, missing an entire tower (!!) that was put into the appendix of AMBER AND ASHES, released the same month.
What is the problem? Spoilers. The dragonlance line is being treated as novel supplements, and as such, is avoiding spoilers. This is a problem, because DMs need more information than novel readers. Had the DLCS come out and straight up said that X overlords were dead, the brutes set up camp in the plains of dust, the minotaurs were invading, and other storylines were established, the novels could still go and fill in the details, while allowing DMs to run a dragonlance game without having to play catch up to the novels.
DL gaming needs to be ahead of DL novels. Yes, the key of destiny is concurrent with the books, but we really aren’t told when. The events in that module series are obvious, and leading to a conclusion which will eventually have to be mentioned in the novels, given how important it will be, but this is another handicap. They’re going about it the wrong way.
What I’m trying to say is this- Dragonlance, even with a new module series, is not a game setting. It is a novel setting with periodic coffee table books that help flesh it out. It needs to change to really be allowed to grow as a game. The storyline needs to gel into a relatively stable situation before this can happen. Right now, there are a lot of major arcs being developed, and a lot of potential for gaming, but until the dust has cleared, it won’t work. DL gaming must have the future open.
AMBER AND ASHES changed a lot of things in the world which won’t be reflected in the game material- the new tower, the beloved. These are being revealed in appendices in the novels. This is a mistake. No gamer brings novels to the table. I’d rather see Towers of High Sorcery and HOotS delayed until they can give us all the information than have a handicapped book brought out.
We must not fear spoilers. Game books are not novels. A game book without all the information is useless as a game book. For a modern example, in the updated FRCS, they brought back the deity Bane, who had died in a long story arc years ago. Later on they explained how this came to be, but the campaign setting just assumed that it was so and went on. Had the DLCS followed this example, we would have been given a setting book that actually described the setting post overlords and drastic story changes, as opposed to the book we got.
I just finished the third Linsha novel, an absolutely excellent end to a great trilogy. I won’t spoil it, but Mary Herbert sets the example for how to transition from the fifth to the modern age without completely cutting one off. Her story smoothly ended some long standing arcs while seeding many more interesting ones, and maintained respect for the old as well as the new. I never got the feeling that the fifth age was being thrown out completely in favor of something new, and never felt dissatisfied with how events proceeded. Indeed, for the first time in years, I look forwards to the future of DL with something other than a dead feeling in my stomach, dread at what will be happening next.
War of the Lance was a fantastic book, incorporating modern and historical DL data and bringing the foundation of the setting to a glorious updated look. I can only hope that the current setting gets the same amount of reverence and lavish detail as well.
Response From Jamie Chambers
Editor’s Note: In order to present both sides to this issue, I’ve copied Jamie Chambers’ response from the Dragonlance-L mailing list. – Dragonhelm
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’ve revealed one of the most difficult parts of working on games while the novels are developed. I honestly feel there is better synergy between the books and games since DLs 1-14… But that being said, both timing and licensing issues prevent us from giving everyone what they want, when they want.
As for books “leading the way” and presenting information before the novels, that will almost never happen. The terms we work under specifically state that the novel line leads the way for Dragonlance, and our game products must follow. We’ve been given some great opportunities to strike out on our own and make things happen, specifically in the Age of Mortals adventure series (starting with KEY OF DESTINY)–but these are the exception, not the rule.
We’ll continue to improve on the areas that we can, but there are some elements that just reflect the nature of the business. In an alternate universe things might be different, in a world where TSR still existed here in Lake Geneva with the DL book and game departments under one roof – but then again, maybe not!