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Campaigning in the Dragonlance Setting

by Matt


Are you wondering what this whole Dungeons & Dragons gaming thing is all about? Believe it or not, there is more to the Dragonlance Saga than simply the novels that everyone talks about. Not only can you read about the Dragonlance world, but you can play in it as well. This article will tell you how.

Introduction

If you're new to d20 or Dungeons & Dragons and you wanted to get started playing, your best bet is to find a group of experienced players to join up with, as D&D is not a game that can be played alone. If you don't know anyone who is currently running a game, try your local hobby shop, as they can likely refer you to other players in your area (and many frequently sponsor gaming events at their location). You can also try the Trading Post to find other players near you.

The most important thing is that you can't play D&D alone—by its very nature at least two players are required, though the "average" adventuring group is comprised of 3-5 players and a Dungeon Master to run the game.

As far as playing the game, the best short explanation I've found was in the introduction to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Player's Handbook. The example goes something like this: say you're playing a game, like parchisi. You roll the dice and move forward a certain number of spaces, trying to get from the start to the finish. But instead of a game board, let's make it a maze. And we'll remove the dice—you can move as far forward or backward as you want. We'll put in secret doors and traps, and nasty monsters blocking your path. If you run into another player walking around on the "board," what will you do? Do you attack them on sight, or maybe join forces? Lastly, we'll remove the board from your view—another player, called the Dungeon Master, will hold the board and direct the monsters and describe the board for you. Put yourself in your game piece's shoes, and decide what to do next!

D&D, AD&D, SAGA, D&D 3rd Edition, 3.5 and d20

The list above is a brief summary of the various incarnations Dungeons & Dragons through the years. First edition or classic D&D was followed by an 'advanced' version, hence AD&D. A second edition of AD&D was released in 1989, and was updated to the new 'third' edition D&D in 1999-2000. D&D 3.5 was released in the summer of 2003 as a refinement of the D&D 3E rules, and is the current version of the D&D rule set. (A more complete history can be found here.)

SAGA was a card-based adaptation of the D&D rules that was only used in the Dragonlance setting (more on what a setting is later) in the mid-1990s. It has since been discontinued and replaced with the 3.5 rules.

d20 is a licensing system whereby Wizards of the Coast, the publishers of D&D, granted other companies the right to use certain core rules that are part of the D&D 3.5 system to create their own rules and campaign settings.

What is a campaign setting and how does Dragonlance fit in?

A campaign setting is a game world in which players and DMs can play a D&D campaign. Simply, the core D&D rules provide the necessary information to run a campaign. However, they don't provide any information on the campaign setting—the kingdoms and countries, religions, guilds, organizations, heroes and villains that make up the world. Your DM can create this world for you, or she can set your campaign in a setting such as the Dragonlance world—where all of these things are already defined.

There are literally hundreds or thousands of campaign settings out there—Dragonlance is one of the official worlds supported by Wizards of the Coast. Others Wizards' worlds include Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms and the Eberron campaign setting.

Dragonlance has been licensed under the d20 license to Sovereign Press, which allows them to publish campaign sourcebooks containing rules compatible with the D&D 3.5 rules and also using unique elements from the Dragonlance setting.

Ok, what do I need to play?

As noted above, individuals wishing to go adventuring need a group to play with. If you don't know anyone currently playing, try your local hobby shop or the try the Trading Post.

All players will need their own copy of the Player's Handbook (PHB), which contains rules for creating and equipping a character with adventuring gear, as well as basic spell lists and details on how combat and level advancement work. Players may also be interested in some of the Dragonlance gaming sourcebooks, as they contain additional character creation information and background information about the Dragonlance setting. However, the Player's Handbook should be your first stop, as the rules there are referenced by every other book listed in this article.

I want to run the game. What do I need?

The Dungeon Master or DM is the most significant part of a game, as the DM basically runs the game for the PCs by designing adventures, controlling all the monsters and any other non-player characters (NPCs) your party meets in the game. If you want to use a computer game analogy, the PCs are the people the player controls, and the DM takes care of everything else, from descriptions of the terrain to the merchants and shopkeepers, and running all of the monsters in combat.

The Dungeon Master gets this additional information from a second book called the Dungeon Master's Guide, or DMG. The Dungeon Master's Guide has information on how often to roll for a random encounter, how to design adventures for the players, how to distribute treasure, how to determine travel time, and a number of other things. In short, the Dungeon Master's Guide has rules for the DM that allow him to control how everything in the game works.

While the Dungeon Master's Guide gives detailed instructions on how to control everything in the game, it assumes that the DM has read and understands the Player's Handbook, and it also assumes that the DM has a repository of monsters to use against the PCs. This is where the third essential book, the Monster Manual, comes into play. The Manual contains literally hundreds of monsters that the DM can choose from, with instructions on how to control the monsters in play, what types of attacks they use, how many will appear, in what terrain, and a number of other important things. There are other supplemental monsters that are specific to the Dragonlance setting included in the some of the Dragonlance sourcebooks, such as draconians in the Dragonlance Campaign Setting and the Age of Mortals: Dragonlance Campaign Setting Companion.

If you're just starting out as a DM, it might be a good idea for you to get some background with regard to running an adventure. Fortunately, you're in luck. There are a number of pre-generated adventures that you can find at your local hobby shop or bookstore for use in your campaign. There are also a number of adventures available online for free in the Fan Rules section of the Nexus. A good adventure generally has the complete storyline for the gaming session, including adventure hooks to get your players interested and started through the adventure, as well as challenges, descriptions of places, the villain, and the objective planned out for you. Once you get more familiar with the game, you can start writing your own adventures and you won't have to rely on ones created by others.

Summary

So, to sum up, if you're a person looking to play a character in the D&D game, you'll only need the Player's Handbook. However, in order to play in the Dragonlance setting, you may want to pick up copies of some of the d20 Dragonlance Sourcebooks, as they contain additional character classes and options for your character.

If you want to run a D&D campaign, you'll need a copy of both the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual. (Note that the PHB, DMG and MM are available as part of the 'system reference document,' which is available free on the Internet here.) To run a campaign in the Dragonlance setting, you should also buy copies of the Dragonlance Campaign Setting and the Age of Mortals: Dragonlance Campaign Setting Companion, and keep a close watch on the d20 Dragonlance Sourcebooks, such as the Bestiary of Krynn, which offer additional challenges for the PCs in your campaign. You may also want to look at some of the additional D&D 3rd Edition supplements available as well.

Good luck and happy adventuring!

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