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DLE3 Dragon Keep (2e)
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DLE3 Dragon Keep (2e)

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The good dragons of Krynn need help. Recruited by the silver dragon Saramber, the player characters have joined ranks with the dragons and sought to solve the mystery behind the deaths of many silver and bronze dragons and passed the tests set out for them, earning the trust of these ancient creatures.

But now, Saramber fears evil dragons have discovered the portal that could lead them to the dragons' homeland. If this is true, they must be stopped before they can launch an attack that could destroy this fabled dimension. The adventure leads player characters from the plains of Lunitari to the depths of the ocean and the abode of monstrous Artha, banished daughter of Takhisis.

This third module brings to a climax the epic tale begun with In Search of Dragons, and continued in Dragon Magic. On success or failure hangs the fate of tone of the noblest races of Krynn.

Product History

DLE3: "Dragon Keep" (1989), by Rick Swan, is the third Dragonlance Epic adventure. It was published in October 1989.

Origins (I): The End of the Epic. DLE3: "Dragon Keep" (1989) is the end of Dragonlance's first adventure trilogy. It takes players under the Blood Sea, into the Abyss, and eventually onto Lunitari; this sort of gonzo play, with trips to other planes and distant places would be representative of Swan's Dragonlance adventures. However, there was probably another reason for that trip to the moon …

Origins (II): The End of Ansalon. Just as TSR was finishing up their "DLE" trilogy (1989), they were also publishing Time of the Dragon (1989), a supplement that opened up a new continent of play for the Dragonlance line.

As a result, "Dragon Keep" would be the last new supplement for Krynn's continent of Ansalon until the publication of DLS2: "Tree Lords" (1991) a year and a half later. In fact, Ansalon would not be the primary location for Dragonlance play until the third wave of publication began almost three years later, with Tales of the Lance (1992).

Adventure Tropes. So how do you complete an epic adventure? "Dragon Keep" is more carefully scripted than either of its predecessors, foreshadowing the heavy use of scripted adventures in the AD&D 2e era (1989-2000). However, that's mostly limited to the start and the end of the module. The vast majority of the middle is another hex crawl, one that happens to take place on the moon!

The Media Tie-In. By 1989, TSR was working on its fifth trilogy of Dragonlance fiction. The Dragonlance Chronicles (1984-1985) and Dragonlance Legends (1986), by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, shaped the setting. After Weis and Hickman's departure, TSR produced Dragonlance Tales (1987), a set of short-story anthologies, and Dragonlance Heroes (1988-1989), a set of novels focused on other characters. It's likely that none of those books had the same marketing strength as the original series, because in 1989, TSR returned to the Heroes of the Lans, even sans Hickman and Weis.

The first of these new novels about the Companions were the Dragonlance Preludes (1989-1990), which told the stories of some of these heroes before the War of the Lance. The first novel of that trilogy was Darkness & Light (1989), by Paul B. Thompson, a story about Sturm and Kitiara. The funny thing about Darkness & Light, published several months before "Dragon Keep", is that it also features a trip to Lunitari.

One could mark that up as coincidence, but a later book, DLS3: "Oak Lords" (1991), would make it even more obvious that adventure writers were being given the novels as sources for their RPG books. It seems likely that the practice began here.

Exploring Krynn. Part of "Dragon Keep" is set in a dome under the Blood Sea, but the heart of the adventure is set on Lunitari. In fact, most of the adventure is a rather magnificent description of the moon, laying it out on a huge hex map with tons of named features that you won't find anywhere else.

The adventure also reveals a new plane of Krynn's unique Abyss, the home of the astral dragons.

Monsters of Note. "Dragon Keep" features the astral dragons, Deion and Procene, who were first referred to in the previous adventure. They're depicted as the neutral progenitors of all dragons. Full stats for them would appear in MC4: Monstrous Compendium Dragonlance Appendix (1990).

The astral dragons aren't the only draconic inhabitants of their Abyssal home: there are also gray dragons on the plane, as well as the kodragons from the previous adventure.

NPCs of Note. "Dragon Keep" marked the last major appearance of most of the NPCs found in the "DLE" trilogy.

The only major exception is Iryl Songbrook, one of the pregenerated characters. She started appearing in Fifth Age material beginning with Citadel of Light (1998) and the Legends of the Lance #3 newsletter (Summer 1998). She can also be found in novels such as The Silver Stair (1999) and The Odyssey of Gilthanas (1999). The other pregenerated characters from the "DLE" series are all briefly mentioned in Citadel of Light too.

Meanwhile the series' archivillain, Artha, would return as a sample demigod in Holy Order of the Stars (2005); his villainous consort, Khardra, however, is never heard from again.

Blowing Up the Canon. Though the "DLE" series is generally said to have canon problems, it's the astral dragons that are the big problem. Their existence as draconic progenitors doesn't match with the history found in Tales of the Lance (1992), nor are they mentioned in The Dragons novel (1996) by Douglas Niles. In fact, after "Dragon Keep", Deion and Procene almost entirely disappear from Krynn lore, with DLS3: "Oak Lords" (1991) perhaps being the only other supplement to mention them before they were thrust back into the void.

About the Creators. Swan was one of the main authors for Dragonlance in the years immediately following the departure of Weis and Hickman. That started with contributions to DL15: "Mists of Krynn" (1988) and continued now with the "DLE" series (1989) and later with two-thirds of the "DLA" series (1990).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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64
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1.0
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TSR 9245
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