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Dragonlance: Fifth Age Dramatic Adventure Game (SAGA)
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Dragonlance: Fifth Age Dramatic Adventure Game (SAGA)

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A generation ago, the War with Chaos heralded a new age for the world of Krynn - the Age of Mortals. Just as the shattered land of Ansalon had begun to recover, a new threat from across the sea descended upon the populace: the Great Dragons. Larger and more fierce than any wyrms ever to battle in the wars of past ages, these beasts have brought terrible oppression to the land they now claim. Humans and elves, dwarves and centaurs, minotaurs and kender all suffer under their shadow.

But the FIFTH AGE is not without its heroes. Born of myriad races, these valiant souls found inspiration in legends of the heroes of yore. They now take up sword and lance, master an almost forgotten primordial magic, and harness the untold energies of the human heart to defend their people from the dragon lords of Ansalon.

Dragonlance: FIFTH AGE is an all new role-playing game that builds on the foundation of the best-selling novel Dragons of Summer Flame, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. The game features the unique SAGA dramatic adventure rules, designed to reproduce the sweeping romance and fantastic epics of the Dragonlance tradition.

Note: Currently this download does not include the Fate Deck cards nor the Ansalon map.

Product History

Dragonlance: Fifth Age (1996), by William W. Connors, Sue Weinlein Cook, and others, is the core rules for a new SAGA-based roleplaying game set in the world of Krynn. It was published in August 1996.

About the Box. Fifth Age came in a digest-sized box packed with components, including: the 128-page "Book of the Fifth Age" book, which detailed the new SAGA rules; the 96-page "Dusk or Dawn" book, which described the setting of Dragonlance; the 48-page "Heroes of a New Age" booklet, which featured Fifth Age's first adventure; a deck of 82 Fate cards; 18 character cards; a sheet of translations between AD&D and Fifth Age; and a full-color poster map of the continent of Ansalon.

Origins (I): The End of an Era. The original creators of Dragonlance, Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, both left TSR in the late '80s, with their last major work being Dragonlance Adventures (1987). The Dragonlance line survived for half-a-decade without them: it was even revitalized following the publication of AD&D 2e (1989) with the "DLE" adventure series (1989), the Time of the Dragon (1989) setting, and a few years later the Tales of the Lance (1992) world book. However, none of this was ultimately enough to sustain a roleplaying line. The Dragonlance roleplaying books ended in December 1993 with DLR3: "Unsung Heroes" (1993). It was part of a general reshuffling at TSR, which also saw the end of the Spelljammer (1989-1993) and Greyhawk (1978-1993) settings and even the Basic D&D line (1977-1993).

Meanwhile, Dragonlance remained wildly successful in fiction form, now including some 60 novels and anthologies. TSR wanted to bring those fiction fans back into the roleplaying fold if they could, and so a new team was set to work to create a new Dragonlance game.

Origins (II): A New Game. The Fifth Age team originally proposed that the new Dragonlance game could use a rules-lite form of AD&D. However, TSR management instead wanted a totally new game, with a new card-based system. Creator Director Harold Johnson put together the various requirements and decided to create a "storytelling" game that could better capture the fictive essence of Krynn. Game designer William W. Connors was brought in to lead this effort.

Origins (III): A Summer of Fire. However, Connors wouldn't be the only one leading Dragonlance work in the mid '90s. Dragonlance creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman were simultaneously making a surprise return, with a contract to write a new trilogy of books, the "Dragonlance Chronicles II". They began work in February 1994 at "The Barn", Weis' renovated house in Wisconson. There, they plotted out the story of Krynn's next epic, one that would transition the world into the Fifth Age, the Age of Mortals.

TSR pointed the way to the new era with The Second Generation (1994), a short story anthology that included three stories that Weis and Hickman had written in 1987 for some of the earlier Dragonlance anthologies as well as two newer pieces. Dragons of Summer Flame (1995) then appeared a year and a half later; it contained the plot that had originally been intended for three books, very tightly compacted. The decision to make this change from a trilogy to a single book may have soured Hickman and Weis on TSR — though Weis stayed in contact with the Fifth Age crew, and eventually gave the game her "stamp of approval". In any case, Dragons of Summer Flame was the last book that Weis and Hickman produced for TSR.

Meanwhile, the team working on Fifth Age got advanced copies of the new book in 1995 and suddenly had to account for the massive changes created by it. Sue Cook rather politely stated that they were "surprised at the turn of events". Cook said that "it gave [them] an interesting jumping-off point" and that Connors "took the disappearance of the gods [in the novel] as a challenge". Steve Miller conversely said that it was "a fantastic waste of [Dragonlance's] potential" and stated that he worked hard to balance Fifth Age material with classic material from the setting.

Origins (IV): A New Era. Though Weis and Hickman opened up vast new vistas for Dragonlance following the events of Dragons of Summer Flame, they didn't offer the Fifth Age team any guidance on what came next. Thus, Fifth Age moved into a new era of Dragonlance storytelling that was quite divorced from what came before while simultaneously breaking lots of new ground, without the input of Dragonlance's original creators.

Origins (V): The Tales of Krynn. TSR actively supported the new Fifth Age game with lots of new fiction. Jean Rabe led the way with a short story called "Kindling" (1996) in Dragon #225 (January 1996). It was the first story set after Dragons of Summer Flame, and thus the first hint at the coming of the Great Dragons, who would become some of the major adversaries of Fifth Age. Dragon magazine would publish Krynn short stories throughout 1996, advancing the timeline as they did. Meanwhile, Jean Rabe took over as the core chronicler of Krynn with The Dawning of the New Age (1996), set contemporary with the new Fifth Age game, 30 years after Dragons of Summer Flame.

What a Difference an Edition Makes: The Controversy. Fifth Age was quite controversial, which might have been a factor in the line's ultimate demise — although Wizards's decision to focus on a single game system with the release of D&D 3e (2000) would be another issue. However, whether they was important to the game's ultimate success or not, fans had numerous issues with Fifth Age.

First, many fans weren't happy about the major setting changes from Dragons of Summer Flame, which moved the timeline 25 years past the original Chronicles, removed the gods from Krynn, messed up magic, and also killed some fan favorite characters. This discontent started bubbling up with the release of the paperback edition of The Second Generation, which revealed the fall of two minor characters, and it only grew from there. Fifth Age itself pushed the setting another thirty years forward, and though its changes weren't as notable, when piled on top of the previous changes, they created even more resistance.

Second, some fans weren't happy that Weis and Hickman were now gone and that Rabe had become the central chronicler of Krynn. The fact that Fifth Age was based not just on Weis and Hickman's Dragons of Summer Flame but also Rabe's Dawning of a New Age made it more problematic.

Third, some fans didn't like the fact that the new game wasn't AD&D, because Dungeons & Dragons had always been the heart of Dragonlance. Even if the new game could better tell the stories of Dragonlance's epics … that wasn't necessarily what roleplaying fans were looking for.

Major edition changes have often been quite controversial for roleplaying publishers, and Fifth Age included the two most problematic sorts of changes: a total revamp of the game system and a big time-jump for the setting. Though TSR had successfully skated through their previous edition changes, even the relatively big updates of AD&D 2e (1989), they ran into major fan pushback for the first time here. It'd be a preview of the controversies that would become more common in the 21st century.

What a Difference an Edition Makes: The Storytelling. The new game system of Fifth Age was designed with a different focus that D&D. It was intended to be a "narrative" game that could better support the "rich literary heritage" of Dragonlance. Connors worked to "minimize conventional role-playing mechanics" and instead focus on the sort of freeform narrative roleplaying that many people enjoyed as children. Rules systems like timekeeping and precise movement mechanics were minimized to help center the game on "drama and adventure". Instead, Connors designed freeform and player-oriented rules systems, such as a magic system that allows players to spontaneously design spell effects.

Storytelling design of this sort was just appearing in roleplaying games of the '90s. Vampire: The Masquerade (1991) and the rest of the World of Darkness games actively pushed the phrase, but it was smaller press games like Jonathan Tweet's Over the Edge (1992) that more clearly embodied the ideas of freeform play and player agency. Fifth Age fit right into this stream of game design, which was quite notable for a game from industry leader TSR.

These storytelling game would evolve into the narrative-focused indie games of the '00s and '10s.

What a Difference an Edition Makes: The Cards. Fifth Age's other major advance came through its use of cards. This was another popular trope in the mid '90s, starting with R. Talsorian's Castle Falkenstein (1994) and Wizards of the Coast's Everyway (1995), which both did away with dice in exchange for card-based resolution mechanisms. Fifth Age does the same, using cards for character creation, then for resolution with the game itself. One of the most clever elements of the game is that the cards also represent health: as a character is wounded, he discards cards, simultaneously reducing his health rating while reducing his efficiency in the future due to more limited choice.

However, Fifth Age's cards aren't just randomizers and health tokens. They also represent one of the earliest uses of a resource management mechanism in the roleplaying field. As with most mechanisms of this sort, Fifth Age's cards increase the players' agency: players get to decide when to use great cards (because it's dramatically important to succeed at a task) and when it might be acceptable to use a poor card (and fail).

What a Difference an Edition Makes: The Future. Ultimately, the SAGA rules wouldn't succeed as a long-lived game system. However, some of the mechanics might have influence D&D 3e (2000), particular the use of "difficulty ratings" for tasks. Fifth Age also makes extensive use of in-line icons, which would recur in D&D 3e products.

Adventure Tropes. As a storytelling game, Fifth Age obviously places the focus of its adventures on story. They're explicitly not "map-keyed" like traditional D&D delves, but instead are "storydriven and scene-based".

The sample adventure, "Heroes of a New Age", puts players right into the middle of the metaplot of the Fifth Age: they're searching for a MacGuffin gem stolen from one of the setting's great dragons, Beryllinthranox. Like any traditional Dragonlance adventure, it begins in the Inn of the Last Home. From there it's encounter-based, as promised, moving the players from one scene to another.

The scene-based format is interesting because each of those scenes is very carefully defined, similar to the encounter-based organization of the Dark Sun (1991) flip-book adventures — and much later, the encounters of D&D 4e (2008). In each scene, specific sections overview the story, get the scene started, provide the atmosphere, list actions, detail characters, and suggest outcomes.

Adventure Tropes: Quests. Fifth Age also includes a system of "quests", which are the experience points of the game. A GM could award a player a quest whenever he finishes an adventure, but alternatively he could use them to denote more personal story accomplishments. In either case, it's a big change from the monster-killing experience of AD&D.

Resurrected Races. Fifth Age supports many traditional Dragonlance races, including the centaurs and minotaurs who are fairly unique to Krynn as PC races. Dwarves include hill dwarves and mountain dwarves, while elves include Silvanesti, Qualinesti, and Kagonesti.

Kender of course return as one of the most distinctive Dragonlance races, but they're also the one race that's seen the biggest changes; the kender are now divided into true kender and afflicted kender. The latter are a new gloomy sort of kender who fled the ruined Kender nation. Sue Cook says that their purpose was "to drive home to the reader the fearsomeness of the new dragon overlords". Steve Miller, who came up with the original backstory for the afflicted kender, imagined that afflicted kender had previously popped up after the first Cataclysm, but that they'd faded away after a few generations — but his theory never made it into print.

The afflicted kender were another controversial change in Fifth Age (and one that emerged from the new development team, rather than from Dragons of Summer Flame).

Exploring Krynn. Fifth Age makes a massive jump in the Dragonlance timeline, advancing not just to the Summer of Chaos in 383 AC, but beyond that to 31 SC, after the dragon overlords have landed on Krynn and solidified their grasp on the land.

This new time frame brought with it many new elements including: the appearance of the Legion of Steel; disappearance of the gods and clerical magic; the rulership of the dragon overlords; the affliction of the kender; and the appearance of mysticism and sorcery. Many of these ideas, such as the introduction of mysticism and sorcery were new to the Fifth Age development team, but they were extrapolated from the scant hints at the end of Dragons of Summer Flame. Later books would expand upon them.

Fifth Age also includes an extensive atlas that details how Ansalon has changed in the passing years. New locales such as the Citadel of Light and the Academy of Sorcery are spotlighted.

Monsters of Note: Dragons. One of the directives from Fifth Age came straight from Vice President of Creative Services James Ward, who said, "Put really big, mean dragons in the game." This was the genesis of the great dragons or dragon overlords who would form the heart of the day Age metaplot. They succeeded at making dragons dangerous once again, at least in the world of Krynn.

NPCs of Note: Dragon Overlords. The various members of the Fifth Age design team named the dragon overlords. Sue Cook named Beryllinthranox, Skip Williams named Gellidus, Bill Connors named Malystryx, and Steve Miller named Onysablet. The blue overlord, Khellendros, had previously existed as Kitiara's dragon, Skie.

Future History. The new backstory of Fifth Age was closely tied to a new series of novels being written by Jean Rabe. This first of them, The Dawning of a New Age, appeared in September 1996. Two more would appear in the next two years, forming the "Dragon of a New Age" trilogy. Meanwhile, five follow-up products were already in process for Fifth Age itself, something which Stan! said was "the first time that books and RPG products were developed concurrently".

The Dragonlance SAGA game would run through about 15 publications, the last of which was Rise of the Titans (2000) in February 2000. Meanwhile, TSR also developed a variant of the system for the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game (1998), which was eventually published by Wizards of the Coast after their purchase of TSR.

About the Creators. Before the publication of Fifth Age, Connors was primarily known for his work on the Ravenloft game. Now, he was the lead designer for Fifth Age. Sue Cook was primarily an editor for TSR, but she was the lead author on the "Dusk or Dawn" setting book in Fifth Age.

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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Reviews (1)
Discussions (11)
Customer avatar
Dave R September 10, 2017 5:08 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Im so glad they are bringing this to DMs Guild. one of my most favorite RPGs, (even tho we had to incorporate some houserules) Until they present fate deck here, I am working on a print on Demand "Generic" fate deck. Ill update later when its closer to being released.
Customer avatar
Geert-Jan W October 20, 2017 5:40 pm UTC
PURCHASER
oh! please! Do tell me when you get such a deck up on here, a generic version of the Fate deck with the suits would be perfect!

It might even forge the way to get people into making a proper retroclone version of the game like they did for 1e/2e D&D with some variations or fixes.
Though I am fine with just the pdf for the original and a POD Fate deck of any kind to make it more accessible for actual play.
Customer avatar
Geert-Jan W August 13, 2016 12:12 pm UTC
PURCHASER
No poster, No Fate deck.... if your not adding the fate deck in PDF, then why not make a print on demand Fate deck?

Urgh, I so hate how they handled this game, shame on you Wizards!
At least make it complete enoguh to play the game, the map not being there is also weird...as the maps are included in the other SAGA supplement I bought on here.
Customer avatar
Philip C August 04, 2016 4:53 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Has there been any word as to why the Fate Deck and the maps aren't included? I'm super interested in giving this game a go. I could never convince my friends to play it and I'm kicking myself for ever getting rid of it. I started reading it again and it's a really well-conceived and interesting system and I have to say it has among the best sections on GMing I've ever read. Regardless, it seems really weird to me that they've released it as a PDF but haven't made it fully playable. The guys selling Fate Decks for $90 aren't getting undercut by the 'long tail' if WotC isn't making this fully accessible.
Customer avatar
Joseph G July 08, 2016 6:29 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I, too was hoping for the Fate Deck, but could see in the comments it wasn't provided. What I wasn't prepared for was that it didn't include the poster maps either, which was my primary reason for buying it. This download includes only the three books from the box (and I don't mean to belittle anything, that is a lot of content), but for those looking for things like the Fate Deck, character cards or the poster map you won't find them in this archive.
Customer avatar
Joseph M July 05, 2016 3:32 pm UTC
Oh my god. This game. So awesome, so wrong.
Customer avatar
Jason B July 05, 2016 4:36 pm UTC
PURCHASER
How am I wrong? Let's use an Ogre with a physical score of 13 as an example. Performing a personal or melee attack has a difficulty of average (8) and is resisted by endurance. So hitting the ogre with a sword has a difficulty of 8 + 13 = 21. A warrior with a strength of 9 who plays a card with a value of 9 can only get a result of 18 which is 3 shy of the target number. Unless the warrior gets a trump in which case he can draw another card, there is no way to hit the ogre. And if you are fighting something really tough like a giant or a dragon, forget about it. Granted, you could rely on ranged attacks or magic to take the ogre down, but if you play a hero who doesn't have magic or isn't skilled with ranged attacks you are at a severe disadvantage.
Customer avatar
Jason B July 05, 2016 1:58 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Am I missing something? If I understand the combat mechanics in this game correctly, there are a lot of monsters that have physical stats so high it's impossible to hit much less damage them in melee combat. And when they auto hit you, it's an insta kill. At least his book does have some good info that I can incorporate into my 2e game.
Customer avatar
Dave R September 10, 2017 5:05 pm UTC
PURCHASER
They expanded alot in the HEROES OF ... suppliments. Basically when characters get Magic items and earn certain Role abilities it makes up for it. Just starting out you never wanna take on Ogres or Dragons just like in almost any other RPG. There has been A TON of homerule adjustments in the game becuase it got canned by TSR before it got to its full potential
Customer avatar
Nicholas M July 02, 2016 2:48 pm UTC
Please add the Fate Deck and this'll be an auto-buy. Until then, however, I'm holding off. Also, the listing says it's format is 'Original Electronic', while the preview clearly shows it's a scan.
Customer avatar
Marcelino S June 29, 2016 8:24 pm UTC
I loved this game. I bought all the books off of eBay. I have 3 Fate decks. They need to put up the Marvel Saga system.
Customer avatar
Craig C June 29, 2016 2:34 pm UTC
Here is a generic version of the FATE deck: http://www.dlnexus.com/archives/taladas/rules/fatedeck.zip
Customer avatar
Anthony M June 29, 2016 4:26 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Thanks Craig, you're a legend. Will use this with gratitude until they get around to an official PDF.
Customer avatar
Anthony M June 29, 2016 2:06 am UTC
PURCHASER
So excited about getting to play SAGA! But where's the Fate Deck?
Customer avatar
June 28, 2016 10:17 am UTC
When will the fate deck be added? It will be kind of difficult to play this game without it.
Customer avatar
Troy T July 14, 2017 5:06 pm UTC
Yeah I'd love to buy this, but without the map and deck its useless.
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on June 28, 2016.