Dragonlance: Journey of Desperation and Hope

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Tracy, Curtis and Angel Hickman in front of the rental ‘modular home’ in Elkhorn, Wisconsin (1982)
VW Rabbit in the background.

 

It was early on March 15, a Monday, when Laura and I secured our then to children, Angel and Curtis, into their child seats in the back of our Volkswagen Rabbit and began our journey east toward a new job and a new life. We headed east from Orem Utah through Provo Canyon where Laura and I had often gone on dates during our high school years. We turned northward at Heber her I had learned to fly sailplanes while in high school as well connected with Interstate 80 and headed eastward.

My ancestors were Mormon pioneers. In the mid-1800s they had crossed the Great American Plains from the area of Illinois traveling westward toward freedom. Now my wife and I would be the first members of our families in many generations to cross the planes the other way.

We stopped for breakfast in Rock Springs and then continued eastward toward Cheyenne, Wyoming. Southern Wyoming can be pretty desolate country in March and the freeway seems to never change or end. We passed Cheyenne and entered Nebraska, forging on according to the plan we had carefully mapped out on our recently purchased road atlas. We finished our first the day at a Holiday Inn on the outskirts of Ogallala, Nebraska.

We knew that our trip was going to be three days long, the second day would take us the length of Nebraska past Lincoln and Omaha. The freeway stretched ever on; every turn the wheels taking us further from the homes and families we knew and toward a future that was uncertain.

And so it was that we spend long hours in our Volkswagen Rabbit, Laura and I, talking about hopeful things. We wondered what new thing of value we could bring to the company that would justify their confidence in our ability to create wondrous things.

Laura and I had been writing dungeons together almost for the time that she had introduced me to the Dungeons & Dragons game a couple of years earlier. One of the ideas that we had discussed and had started work on was a world we called Mnemin. It was a world where people road dragons into war and, as we envisioned it, their dragons would be player characters as well. All of this was supposed to have started with our ‘Eye of the Dragon’ module for which we had printed covers but had not yet finished the design. So we filled the hours fleshing out concept, changing it and expanding it. We realized that while Eye of the Dragon was a pretty good title for an adventure module, it wasn’t quite right as a series title.

I believe it was Laura, who has a gift for such things, who came up with the name Dragonlance.

Mnemin became Krynn by the time our little family drove into Lake Geneva, Wisconsin on March 17, 1982. It was St. Patrick’s Day and we celebrated in our hotel room watching The Quiet Man when eating Chinese take-out dinner with Hostess Dingdongs for dessert. To this day, we refer to Dingdongs as Blarney Stones.

And so the seeds of what would become a beloved work had been sown crossing the prairies of Nebraska and Iowa by two young people full of desperation and hope.

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