What I've Changed
AD&D (1e/2e) Rules
Good vs. Evil
At its heart, the Dragonlance saga is a tale of Good vs. Evil, but there are times in the official version of Krynn (perhaps due to the AD&D alignment system rearing its ugly head) that the concepts of what constitutes "good" and "evil" tend to get a bit awkward.
For example, the scenario pack DL8 Dragons of War describes the High Clerist's Tower, and features a bit of history where the last High Clerist, Yarus, is paying khas (a Krynnish version of chess) against the Bishop of Sargonnas. Eh? That's like the Pope playing chess with Aleister Crowley. There is the bizarre notion of balance that exists via the "neutral" gods, and somehow the people of Krynn accept nominally "evil" personages like the Bishop of Sargonnas within their societies.
What does the Bishop do that is "evil"? Does he murder people? Torture them? Eat babies? Why is he allowed a position of prominence in a society (Solamnia) that prides itself on its honour and justice? Would the general population really allow self-proclaimed "evil" individuals to walk around un-molested simply because of some half-baked philosophical idea that there must be balance between good and evil or bad things will happen? I think not.
What bad things might happen? Well, according to Fizban (as Paladine) in the novels, the Kingpriest of Istar, he who brought about the Cataclysm, was too "good". That an excess of "good" causes intolerance and arrogance, as exemplified by the Kingpriest's genocidal campaign against the "evil" races; ogres and goblin-kind. Surely intolerance and arrogance aren't the result of "good" action? Surely the Kingpriest's ideals became warped, and his actions are in fact evil? So therefore, it was evil deeds that brought down the Cataclysm, not "too much Good".
I prefer some shades of grey. I don't believe in good and evil races. On Krynn, the elves are held to be "good" and the ogres "evil", with little choice in the matter. However, the elves have had their fair share of kin-strife, murder and ill-will towards others. The elves may like to think that they are exemplars of "good", but they are as flawed as humans are. One of the first things that set me on the path of in-depth study (and overhaul) of the Dragonlance saga was an experiment to try to re-write the ogres so that they were still dangerous and unpleasant, but not "evil" simply because they had "Chaotic Evil" written in the box for alignment. How could I make these most ancient of peoples more rounded? How could I lift them out of being fairy-tale bogeymen? To begin with, I took their belief in the manifest destiny and superiority of ogre-kind over all other races. I changed the source of their "fall" (the degeneration from the noble Irda of ancient times to the bestial grunts that they are by the Fourth Age) from a punishment from the gods to a curse by the Kingpriest.
Having tackled the ogres, I was then inspired to attempt other areas of Krynn. One of my first targets were the Orders of High Sorcery. Rather than the black robed wizards being "evil" ("Hello, I'm an evil wizard, hahahaha!!!"), they simply ascribe to a different philosophy (basically that the strong can do what they like because they're strong). They are feared by the general populace, and engage in lively debates with the White Robes concerning ethics, but they do not call themselves "evil". All three Orders would consider a rogue mage with none of the controls of High Sorcery to be far more evil than the most degenerate of Black Robes.
Similarly, alliances in wars aren't based on whether a populace is "good" or "evil" (generally, the Other Side is considered evil). The people of Estwilde and Lemish are labeled as "evil" for siding with the dragonarmies. Not so! Estwilde is a rugged, barren country, and its people want the resources of the fertile Solamnic plain. Lemish is a small country, deciding to ally with a stronger power rather than be destroyed. Greedy, cowardly, and opportunistic perhaps, but not inherently evil.
With good and evil seemingly swept away, how can the heroic nature of the Dragonlance saga possibly be recreated? Well, good and evil are still there, they just aren't labeled as blatantly. For me, the underlying difference is that "evil" is behaving selfishly, treating others cruelly or without thought for their health or happiness. "Good", on the other hand, holds out the possibility of altruism, of consideration and of wisdom.
The Dragonarmies represent an opportunity to act without moral restriction or impunity. They do not recruit by saying "Hey, we're evil, wanna join us?". Instead, they would offer chances for recruits to unleash their frustrations or anger. "Hey, those elves over there have got magic and silver and stuff. How come they don't share it with you? Don't you think you deserve some?" "Those Knights of Solamnia - who do you think has to pay for their armour and castles? That's right, you do. What do you get in return? Did they give you any help during the Cataclysm?" Fear, ignorance, prejudice, hatred. This is how the Dragon Empire operates - these are the things that make Takhisis strong.
So what of the other side? What of the "good" guys? At the time of the War of the Lance, all those who would potentially stand against Takhisis are absorbed in their own problems. I think that a theme of the Dragonlance saga is based upon the old adage "All that evil needs to triumph is for good people to do nothing." The Whitestone forces must first overcome their "sins", if you will, that are holding them back. The elves have become insular - they refuse to help their neighbours, thinking that it is not their problem ("It was the humans that brought the dragons back to Krynn" - Porthios). The Knights have become too hide-bound by the Measure to act. They abide by the words but do not hear the message. All the Whitestone forces must overcome their arrogance too - each believes that they should command the forces. They must find their own nobility before they can combat the darkness.
As you can probably tell, I'm a RuneQuest aficionado and so I have a preference for detailed and complex mythology like that found in Glorantha over the more simplistic style typical of AD&D. In the simplistic style, the gods tend to have little more details than an epithet and a sphere of influence (used to generate a spell list). I like to have stories and philosophies behind why certain gods have certain spheres.
You will also have noticed my dislike for the three-fold alignment system. Bar a few odd individuals, people don't worship "evil" gods. Evil gods in mythology serve the purpose of warnings - be good or this will happen to you, bad things happen in the world because this individual misbehaved etc. They may be propitiated to stop them from doing their evil, but they are never worshipped. There is also the matter that it is always the other person's god who is the "evil" one. The Canaanites certainly didn't consider Baal to be an evil god, but the Israelites did!
Starting from the original twenty-one gods and studying their alternative names, I have come up with a variety of different pantheons, and managed to explain why some people (e.g. the ogres) worship gods that are officially known as "evil".
I've given people more knowledge of the old gods than in the original Dragonlance saga. The Solamnics certainly must have tales, statues and other things to remind them. In the Seeker Theocracy, the old gods have been actively suppressed, so it is no surprise that they are little known, but others should know of them. The reason that no true cleric exists any more is more due to a matter of faith than of knowledge. The people know the names of the gods, but they no longer really believe in them. They say their prayers but their hearts aren't in them. To attain the spiritual strength needed to defeat the Dragon Armies, the people of Krynn need a resurgence in true faith. They are waiting (even if they don't know it) for a saviour figure. (This also gives the saga a very end-of-millennium zeitgeist!)
I have worked on the principle that history is always being re-written and re-examined. Although I may contradict official published material (and indeed sometimes this material contradicts itself), this is because no-one truly knows the exact details. What is presented as fact may be a mistake, a copying error or even outright lies and propaganda. Within these discourses I have taken on several personae. Some documents are written in-character, as a resident of Krynn 351AC. Some are written as a scholar of Krynn, uncovering details about the world as if it were a real place, and some are written as a Gamesmaster putting some ideas together.
I hope you find it interesting.
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