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DLE1 In Search of Dragons (2e)

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Good, Evil, Neutrality.

These three forces exist in a delicate balance, a balance crucial to the harmony of all things. Now that harmony is threatened and all of Krynn is in jeopardy.

For reasons unknown, the balance among Krynn's good, evil, and neutral dragons is shifting: A deadly affliction is killing off silver dragons, and no one has seen a bronze dragon in months. What's more, the people of Krynn seem to have lost their respect for dragons, hunting them for sport, looting their treasure troves, even training them for use in circuses and sporting events! And as the adventure begins, a strange being named Khardra appears with a fascinating theory—that dragons are merely animals whose presence on Krynn may no longer be necessary!

In this AD&D adventure set in the world of the Dragonlance saga, players must discover what is wrong with the good dragons of Krynn. And just who is Khardra, anyway? As they investigate these mysteries, players learn many secrets of dragons. How they use their newfound knowledge determines the fate of their world.

Product History

DLE1: "In Search of Dragons" (1989), by Rick Swan, is the first Dragonlance Epic adventure. It was published in January 1989.

About the Module Code. In the second-edition AD&D era (1989-2000), TSR switched over to more complex codes for their D&D supplements that were usually three letters long. The first two letters tended to denote the campaign world, then the third letter denoted what sort of supplement it was.

Unfortunately, what these codes actually meant is poorly documented; worse, they'd be used increasingly inconsistently as the AD&D 2e era went on. Thus "DLE" was a new code for Dragonlance adventures, and we can guess the "E" stood for "Epic", as it was indeed a new epic story set in the world of Krynn. However, this is a guess; in fact the precise meaning of almost all the AD&D 2e module codes is a guess

Origins (I): The First 2e Adventure. DLE1: "In Search of Dragons" (1989) was not only the first adventure published for AD&D 2e (1989), but it was actually published in advance of the new Player's Handbook (1989) by a few scant weeks. Though we wouldn't think much of this in the modern day, where the new game would have bene playtested for years, at TSR in 1989, this appears to have meant that the adventure was written without full knowledge of the new rules!

"In Search of Dragons" shows its place at this junction of AD&D rules with a starburst on its cover that reads "Compatible with the AD&D and the 2nd Edition AD&D Game Systems". What that really meant is: not totally compatible with either. Because the 2e rules were probably still gelling when this was written.

It's somewhat surprising that Dragonlance was the first setting that TSR supported for AD&D 2e, because Forgotten Realms would reign as the game's most important setting throughout the time period. Probably, the early debut of Dragonlance was just a quirk of what was ready, but it certainly did highlight Dragonlance as one of TSR's three crucial settings at the dawn of the 2e era, alongside the new Forgotten Realms and the venerable Greyhawk.

Origins (II): Starting the Second Wave of Dragonlance. Following the publication of Dragonlance Adventures (1987), the Dragonlance line lost its focus due to the departure of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. DL15: "Mists of Krynn" (1988) and DL16: "World of Krynn" (November 1988) kept the world alive, but little more.

Now, with the advent of AD&D 2e, TSR was concentrating to produce more coherent and notable books for the setting — though not necessarily books that were more canonical. This second wave would only last through the end of 1991.

Origins (III): The First D&D Trilogy. One of TSR's innovations for AD&D 2e publication was the idea of adventure trilogies. Each year their major lines would each see a trilogy of epic adventures. The "DLE" In Search of Dragons trilogy (1989) would lead things off, as good dragons being to die on Krynn. It would soon be followed by the Realms' "FRE" Avatar trilogy (1989), then all three major settings would see trilogies in 1990.

Dragonlance was actually a great setting to lead off this idea, because its 12-part Chronicles adventures (1984-1986) had been TSR's greatest epic to date; the "DLE" series was following in those big footsteps with a somewhat smaller offering. But still, you can see the ancestry. Not only is the "DLE" trilogy another epic story, but it even repeats some of the tropes of the original "DL" adventures. That includes production tropes: "In Search of Dragons" returns to the idea of cardstock cutout sheets for pregenerated characters that had originated with the Heroes of the Lance in the original Chronicles.

Adventure Tropes: An Epic Adventure. So how do you create a new Dragonlance epic?

First, you come up with an epic problem. Good dragons are sickening and the moons are starting to fade from the sky. Involve the gods, or at least the demigods — in this case, Artha.

Second, you begin that epic story at the local level, here the village of Fair Meadows, home to not just a fair but also an inter-village meeting.

Third, you lay out a big hex map, just like in some of the early Dragonlance Chronicles adventures, and let the characters hex crawl to important plot points. But, you give the plot a little extra focus by dividing the hex map into four sections, with the goal of having the characters move from one section to the next in order.

In other words, you make a best attempt to mimic what made early adventures like DL1: "Dragons of Despair" (1984) successful, with one big change: you don't include big dungeon crawls, because it's almost the '90s.

Adventure Tropes: You and Him Fight. Moving away from dungeon crawls would be a general trope of AD&D 2e. So would creating more story-focused adventures that stay on track, whether the players push them or not.

This sort of railroading is most obvious in "In Search of Dragons" through its finale, where Khardra is defeated because a good dragon decides to eat him. He then explodes, killing the good dragon, which in turn leads to the defeat of Artha as well. It's a nice bit of agency theft for the players and depicts a general trope of NPCs fighting that would last throughout the AD&D 2e era.

What a Difference an Edition Makes. In advance of the new AD&D 2e rules, "In Search of Dragons" includes a short rule section to tell you how to update for the new edition of the game. Or rather, it includes a very short rule section. It tells GMs that the monsters no longer have their movement speeds listed in inches ("), a holdover from D&D's wargaming origins, and it also says that new suffixes denotes types of movement, like Fl(ying) and Sw(imming).

And that's it.

The rest of the module reveals how much "In Search of Dragons" was in between editions. There are fewer anachronisms than in some other contemporary adventures, but there is a very minimalistic list of classes that was probably intended to avoid mistakes when the set of character classes might still have been in flux. So, there are clerics, fighters, rangers, mages, and thieves, and that's in.

The new monster write-up of the eyewings also reveals that this adventure was written between editions, because they're detailed in a short quarter-page writeup, not the longer ones that can be found in the Monstrous Compendiums (1989-1998).

Ages of Krynn: 354 AC or 358 AC? "In Search of Dragons" claims to be set in 354 AC, a few years after the end of the War of the Lance. A few years later, Dragon #224 (December 1995) would instead suggest 358 AC, putting it past the Dragonlance Legends (1986) novels, and thus into the then "present day" of Krynn.

Exploring Krynn.Geographically, "In Search of Dragons" takes place in Northern Estwilde, which extends the lands of Ansalon beyond what had been detailed in the Chronicles. There's even a nice poster map; put that together with the hexcrawl, and you have a very viable locale for adventure.

The most notable location on the map is probably the Dragon's Graveyard. The idea might have come from "The Dragon's Graveyard" (1984), an episode of the D&D cartoon (1983-1985) that had broadcast a few years earlier. In any case, this is a Krynnish take on the idea.

NPCs of Note. "In Search of Dragon" introduces Artha, the demigoddess daughter of Takhisis and Chemosh (later revealed to actually be Hiddukel), who would be the Big Bad of this adventure series; Khardra, a black wizard, is also of note, but he doesn't survive the adventure.

A new set of pregenerated characters also appear, for use throughout the adventure trilogy.

Blowing Up the Canon. The whole "DLE" adventure is considered canonically troublesome by fans of Krynn. As opposed to some of the blatant discrepancies of the other post-Weis-and-Hickman adventures, the problems with this trilogy are in its general feel. In particular, new elements introduced to the mythos didn't feel like Krynn to some. "In Search of Dragons" was probably the least troublesome of the three adventure, with the Conclave of Good Dragons that appears toward the end of the adventure being the only particularly problematic element.

With all that said, the "DLE" adventures are are still considered part of canon and in fact many of their elements have been reused elsewhere. For example the Dragon's Graveyard reappears in Spectre of Sorrows (2005), with a bit more explanation of where and what it is.

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, 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

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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February 6th, 2018
A forgotten oddity, poorly presented (As of 6 Feb 2018) Note: I do not have direct experience with the original publication of this module to compare with. About the PDF: The PDF produc [...]
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