Most games of Dungeons & Dragons feature a plucky band of adventurers trying to solve problems by themselves or with the help of a few key friends. Wizards of the Coast is changing that scope with the release of Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen, which is taking inspiration from war movies like Saving Private Ryan and 1917.
The 244-page hardcover campaign chronicles the early days of the War of the Lance from the 1980s Dragonlance setting, where the forces of the Dragon Queen Takhisis, also known as Tiamat, are marching against the knights of Solamnia.
“Dragonlance is really D&D’s setting for war, for massive conflicts, for these world-sweeping, world-changing battles,” D&D senior game designer Wes Schneider said during a Tuesday press conference. “The players are going to find themselves at the forefront of this battle in the defense of Solamnia against this evil wave of tyranny. It’s not just the fate of a town, it’s not just the fate of your pocket book. The fate of the entire world is really at stake in this.”
D&D principal art director Kate Irwin said she tried to bring that epic scale to life through the adventure’s art. Chapters open with double-page pieces often inspired by photos from World War I and World War II. For instance, an image of an adventuring party gathered around a captive red dragon is meant to be reminiscent of soldiers posing with a captured tank. Another shows the knights of Solamnia heading for war.
“This is the beginning of the conflict,” Irwin said. “They are leaving their home, heading off to an uncertain future, but knowing that they have to do what they have to do.”
The book will be sold alongside Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn, a cooperative board game from veteran wargame designers Rob Daviau (Risk Legacy) and Stephen Baker (HeroQuest, Battle Masters). While both can be played separately, they’re meant to work in concert, with players turning to the board game to simulate large-scale battles. The decisions made in those fights and their outcomes will impact both future rounds of Warriors of Krynn and what happens in the story of Shadow of the Dragon Queen.
The board game comes with a set of miniatures to represent the characters that can also be used on a standard D&D grid, including a towering knight of Solamnia modeled after Brienne of Tarth. Rather than a conventional wargame focused on moving units around the map, Warriors of Krynn will maintain the D&D focus with players having different abilities based on their character class.
“You’re still playing your characters,” Schneider said. “You’re having your adventures in the fray or around the edges of battle, doing the things that are important to really turn the tide of battle.”
Key enemies include the priest of Takhisis Kansaldi Fire-Eyes, who leads her forces from the back of a red dragon, and the iconic death knight Lord Soth who rides a death dragon, a new type of undead dragon. The game also brings back Draconians, humanoids born from the stolen eggs of (traditionally considered good guy) metallic dragons that have been corrupted by Takhsis’ (traditionally considered bad guy) chromatic dragons.
“It makes the metallic dragons stand down because the chromatics have kidnapped their babies, but it also means that the chromatics have this great army that they’re building and nobody is going to stop them, at least nobody who’s equal in power,” Irwin said.
Because the adventure is so focused on Solamnia, Shadow of the Dragon Queen won’t contain a sweeping gazetteer of the world of Krynn, but it will include a poster map of the continent of Ansalon. Shadow of the Dragon Queen will also provide details on the different groups, organizations and races found in Dragonlance to provide inspiration for player characters.
While you might encounter some familiar faces, the focus will be on the player characters rather than the heroes of the novels by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss, who are currently working on a new Dragonlance trilogy.
“This is a new story,” Schneider said. “We’re not beholden to the original Dragonlance adventures. We’re not beholden to the novels. All of the heroes we know and love are out there doing their thing, but it’s a big world and there’s a huge world-spanning war going on. Let’s tell these other stories. Let’s really put you and your characters at the center of these tales and see what roles they have in turning the tide of this larger conflict.”
Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen will be released physically on Dec. 6, though on Nov. 22 you can unlock two weeks of early access through D&D Beyond by buying both the digital and the physical versions together. The book and its digital companion cost $59.94 when purchased together. The book, its digital companion, and the board game — Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn — will be available for $154.98 and include an exclusive Dungeon Master’s screen.