plundering Dragonlance: whistling in the dark

August 12th, 2013 by paul
This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series dragonlance

I read a Dragonlance novel when I was a wee lad, and I didn't think much of it (putting me on the other side of the gender divide, I guess). My memory is that Tanis spent a lot of time standing on battlements brooding about his half-elven nature, the kender was irritating, and Sturm was a big dull dud. Now, I loved knights acting on punctilious points of honor, so Sturm should have been right up my alley, but I couldn't like him. Maybe it was the moustaches.

(Dragonlance experts: Did Tanis ever actually stand brooding on battlements? I have a very specific memory of battlements.)

Raistlin I liked, up to a point -- and that point was True Neutral. I was a sanctimonious child and couldn't really get into an evil antihero.

Recently I decided to reread Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I'm finding that I like it more now than I did as a kid. There are some things done well, and the writing isn't as bad as I remember (or I've read a lot more bad writing in the meantime). As a novel, it's decent. As D&D adventure material, though, it's inspiring. Not surprising, since the first book is, I understand, basically a novelization of an adventure module.

Even if you're not using the Dragonlance campaign setting, there are some pretty good DM tricks in Dragons of Autumn Twilight - just remember to file off the serial numbers. Chances are, at least one of your players read these books as kids.

I'll probably write a couple of posts about Dragonlance tricks for non-Dragonlance campaigns. Here's one:

goblin whistles

What are those sounds?" Goldmoon asked the knight as he came up to her.

"Goblin search parties," Sturm answered. "Those whistles keep them in contact when they're separated. They're moving into the woods now."

This is cool, and a little spooky. A DM could add some atmospheric dread, I think, by using whistles to indicate that the PCs are being hunted. It could either be used, with frightening effect, as the signature of a pack of some horrifying hunting monsters, or used, as here, to spice up the lowly goblin. It'd be best used repeatedly: you'll get some tension out of the first escape scene punctuated by whistles, but a session or two later, when the PCs think they're safe, and they hear that whistle again: that's your payoff.

This trick would work best with a DM who could actually whistle. "You hear a whistle" doesn't have the same effect.

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5 Responses to “plundering Dragonlance: whistling in the dark”

  1. Jake says:

    I loved those novels as a kid…I used to read them to my dad while he washed the dishes.

    Tanis did indeed brood on the battlements; it was in the dwarf kingdom, whatever it was called, I believe. 2nd book maybe. As a 10 year old the Tanis/Kitiara/Laurana love triangle was profoundly emotionally resonant to me. Obviously in retrospect it’s a little hacky.

    I still like Gully Dwarves and Draconians, and the scene where (SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS)….





    Riverwind is murdered via black dragon acid. Hard core.

  2. Or uses an actual whistle at the table. :)

  3. “Whistle at the table,” too cool. LOL

    The possibilities here are near endless.

  4. Random says:

    Tanis was my favorite character. I identified with him the most. Those books are what put the color to the fantasy worlds I have created.

  5. Random says:

    Tanis was my favorite character. I identified with him the most. Those books are what put the color to the fantasy worlds I have created.

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