A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had uncovered the original Dragonlance Proposal. I thought I might share some of it with you, giving you a sense of our original vision for the series of what was then primarily intended to be adventure modules.
It is a remarkable document in its vision of what Laura and I hoped Dragonlance would become and shows so many of the initial elements. The general series background on page 2 read:
The kingdoms of man in this area of the world were once mighty and beautiful. Their splendor and b rightness were as a beacon of all that was great in man. Brightest of all was the land of Ishtar, whose capital city glistened under the sun and stars alike. Many evil things had gone from the land, becoming only fables and dreams to the people. Yet, evil did still exist here, like a candle fluttering in the wind.
Then came into the heart of the good King of Istar a subtle thought: if the necromancers could summer forth demons and force them towards evil acts, could not he, the king/priest of Istar call forth one of the lesser gods to do his bidding?
The roots of the Dragonlance themes surrounding the King/Priest of Istar were found in the very first proposal document.
The day came and the King/priest called the gods. The gods swiftly gave their answer. A mountain of rock, a giant meteor thundered down upon the capital city and sundered the land.
Even in the original document we see the foundations of Caramon and Raistlin’s Legends story. The King-priest is already part of the story background and would remain a founding element throughout the series.
Just as the meteor hurtled toward the city, the great Temple of Ishtar vanished as a whole from the face of the world. Her beauty perverted and her glory gone, the temple fell from the grace of existence to the first plain of Hell. Here, it was discovered by Tiamat, the Chromatic mother of evil dragons. Entering the temple halls and working her way to the foundations, Tiamat took the foundation pillar from the temple and using it as a key, was able to reenter Ansalon — a place from which she had long ago been banished.
Tiamat came from a pantheon of gods created by Jeff Grubb which became the foundation for Dragonlance theology. Originally, the intention was to feature each of the original twelve dragons from the AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual. I used to joke that this was like a ‘dragon of the month club’. This mean including the multi-headed Chromatic Dragon … which is named as Tiamat in the 1st edition Monster Manual. Likewise is Bahamut, the King of Dragons or Platinum Dragon originally listed in the Monster Manual and in this proposal as well.
It was but a short time later when the foundation pillar was found by two hunters who had gone astray. A brother and a sister they were, twins at birth though of vastly differing temperament.
The outline goes on at this point to detail, with little change, the story of the Green Gemstone man and his tragic fate. However, the next section shows its unfinished qualities as well.
They were disorganized and petty; often fighting among themselves and without direction. Into this calamity came a great and dark man, known only as Master of Dragonkind. He weilded the Dragontheives into one and they became the force of the Dragonlords.
This is of particular interest to me, especially now. Dragontheives were actually taken from a module Laura and I had not finished called ‘Eye of the Dragon’ — a module we are now completing for a select number of patrons. ‘Eye of the Dragon’ will, therefore, contain these same ‘Dragonthieves’ and the Master of Dragonkind — bridging the genetic link between our earlier, self-published adventures and Dragonlance. (Related article: Recreating the Past)
I also recall that the phrase ‘Dragonlords’ was discovered to be in use by another game company at the time — which is why it was changed to ‘Dragon Highlords.’
The Dragonlords fancied themselves masters of the dragons. The dragons themselves, however, knew the truth. While the men on their backs seemed to conquer the land, the dragons were searching. They needed to find a man with a gem who alone unwittingly stopped the dragons from absolute domination of the land.
Four Books of Three Adventures
There were four ‘books’ in the original project proposal, each which was to consist of three adventure modules. Book I was titled ‘Sanction’ and was to take place during the time when the Dragonlord’s subjugated the land. Book II was Volition which was listed as taking place in…
…a time of unchallenged rule by the Dragonlords. The pitifully small resistance that quietly operated at that time had only one hope: uncover some great weapon against the dragonlords and their mounts. Thus did small bands search for the Orbs of Dragonkind…
One might have thought they would be looking for dragonlances, given the series title, but it is interesting that Dragon Orbs are mentioned in the original proposal.
Starting from the now landlocked port of Tarsis, they searched the ice regions of the south, the deserted forests of the Elves and even the sunken land of Ishtar itself to recover the orbs. The old man who had joined them never seemed really interested in all their plans…
The prototype Fizban has just made his first appearance, leading us to Book III: Stonehold.
As the Orbs of Dragonkind prove ineffective …. came three raids. One to obtain dragon eggs for their own fleet of dragons. Another to obtain the needed armor for the riders. And finally, to the place where dragonlances must be forged.
The final installment — Book IV: Cytadel — comes pretty close indeed.
The temple itself contains the spirit of the sister who died against the stone. If the stone is replaced with the good spirit within the temple stones…
Well, I can only suppose you remember the ending of the series. The proposal goes on to describe each of the individual modules in some detail. The first talks about ‘Deadlands of Ruin’ (later referred to as the Black Dragon of the Saltmarsh). The second has local citizens gathering at a fortified pass named Pax-Tharkas. The third entering a dwarven kingdom called Zakhalax…
The original characters are not mentioned at all in the proposal. There were PC characters being contemplated at the time — the outline says ’10 suggested PC characters that appear in the series’ — but none of them are even given a name in the proposal. At the time when this proposal was written, Tanis, Laurana, Kit, Raistlin, Caramon, Tika, Sturm, Flint & Tasslehoff were not yet formed. There are two NPCs listed (out of ‘8 Good NPC’s that are found throughout the module series’):
SHAUN-ESTI, Princess of Arsalon-veh. She … nearly died in the Cataclysm. When she recovered, she remembered little of her former life and powers. Yet her ability to command and her qickness of decision gives her the ability to reunite the land.
GHI-ZARD, the Holyman. A mysterious man who comes and goes at irregular intervals.
The first appears to be an early– and somewhat absent minded — incarnation of Lauralanthalasa. The second, an unformed version of what would become Fizban. I wonder why we dropped the name Ghi-Zard?
Reading this rather amazing document has taken me back to the roots of Dragonlance and those wonderful times when so many of us struggled to create the best that was in us despite the troubles of the company all around us. I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek behind the curtain as well.