WELCOME READERS ALL AROUND THE WORLD TO
ISSUE #14 OF THE MINDBOGGLING
WHERE WE SHALL REVEAL THE LONG LOST SECRETS OF XAK TSAROTH IN
DRAGONLANCE PART ONE: HEROES OF THE LANCE
THE FIRST OFFICIAL ADVANCED DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS TITLE FROM
The little dwarflike but agile creature stood rigid, looking
at the ceiling. He inspected the floor right in front of his
feet, then looked at the ceiling again. An expression of near-
insulted disbelief crossed his face like a spasm.
"What's the matter, Tas? Why do you stop?" came the voice from
a bearded Half-Elf dressed in perfect leather armor and carrying
both longsword and bow. He was the third in a line of eight
well-equipped and sombre warriors, each armed, grim, and with a
look of determination on their faces.
"The things they call traps these days. This is pitiful; it
looks like a couple of orcs got mixed up in it. Just a second
while I clean their mess."
While the little Kender eyes and fingers were busy with the
delicate job of removing a stone trap, the others stood waiting,
watching. There wasn't one single individual without some special
physical mark or feature; from the red-robed golden-skinned
slight magician to his giant muscular brother, from the beautiful
female barbarian cleric with her blue crystal staff and long fair
hair to her enormously tall ranger companion, and from the stocky
and sturdy old dwarven fighter to the sombre hulk of a cavalier
warrior dressed in long-forgotten Solamnic armor. One could not
imagine a more mixed, colorful company on all of Krynn.
Hi there all you ST NEWS readers to yet another issue of the
omnipresent Crimson's Column. Today you may revel, for this
article concerns the first product coming from the recent
agreement reached between superstars TSR (from Advanced Dungeons
and Dragons) and SSI (from Phantasy, Wizard's Crown, Colonial
Conquest, Wargame Contruction Set and Warship). The title is
Dragonlance Part One: Heroes of the Lance by TSR/SSI
What's so special? Well, for the Ignorant Majority I shall
have the grace to digress and exlain some of the principles
First of all, Ye History of Phantasy. Lots of people nowadays
think the good master Tolkien invented not merely hobbits but the
entire Fantasie genre. Nothing is less true. Although I will not
go into the somewhat complicated and devious backgrounds to
Fantasie (is the Ring des Nibelungen, an opera by Richard Wagner
with too much likeness to The Lord of the Rings for the latter to
be coincidence, also Fantasie? - and so on) I shall make an
effort to explain about the present situation in phantasie games.
And without reluctance I dare state that since Tolkien, no-one
has done more for bringing Fantasy to people than Gary Gygax, the
developer of most of what is nowadays known as the (Advanced)
Dungeons & Dragons role-playing fantasy game system. And Gary
Gygax works (worked, I think) for TSR. So there's link #1.
Link #2 is SSI, and few ST owners interested in role-playing
will not recognise the name of the company responsible for the
first decent fantasy role-playing game on their machine, being
Phantasie (a trilogy). Strategic Simulations Inc. have also
released Wizard's Crown, Rings of Zilfin and other fantasy
What we have now are some of the very best heads of fantasy
games and computer games stuck together by contract. And unless
I'm very much mistaken, the result of this should be a long
series of different but style-related role-playing fantasy games
with high quality in every aspect. Not just great sound &
graphics but also a good user interface, a sophisticated
character generation & development (TSR's Player's Handbook,
Dungeon Masters Guide and Unearthed Arcana have set the rules), a
well-conceived plot and, hopefully, humor (which is why I started
playing AD&D in the first place).
Okay, on with the show. This is the 13th ST NEWS Crimson's
Column issue and for those of you interested in other articles
concerning Fantasy or SF role-playing games here's a short list
of my contributions (RP is for role-playing game):
Title Company Type ST NEWS
Sundog FTL SF Solo RP 2.3
Phantasie SSI Fantasy Party RP 2.4
Brataccas Psygnosis SF Solo Arcade RP 2.5
Roadwar 2000 SSI SF "Mad Max" RP 2.6
Barbarian Psygnosis Fantasy Solo Arc. RP 2.7
Leisure Suit Larry Sierra Solo Text/Arcade 2.8
The Bard's Tale Electronic Arts Fantasy Party RP 3.1
Ultima III - Exodus Origin Fantasy Party RP 3.2
Wizard's Crown SSI Fantasy Party RP 3.3
Dungeon Master FTL/Sofware H. Fantasy Party RP 3.4
Police Quest Sierra Solo Text/Arcade 3.5
Obliterator Psygnosis SF Solo Arcade RP 3.6
Crimson's Xmas Crimsondeal inc. Inimical Realism 3.7
Heroes of the Lance SSI Fantasy Party RP 4.1
Look up the back order section of ST NEWS in case something
strikes you as interesting. You can also write me; more about
Time to get back to Tas - count your pouches now.
"That's it, we can go on. Heyyyy, that looks like paper!"
The big warrior armed with spear and longsword tried to grab
the curious kender but was much too slow; the slight creature
didn't even look back as it quicly walked over to the scroll,
eyes looking left, right, up and down as he went along. Just
before Tasselhoff Burrfoot reached his destination, he froze -
and turned around, loudly saying, "footsteps - it's one of them
dracothingamebobs; one of those watchamacallums, drac..."
"Draconians," hissed the unmoving magic-user in a barely
audible whisper. The light from the claw-held sphere stuck on the
end of his slender staff cast en eerie glow on the company as
footsteps slowly approached them. Without a moment's hesitation,
the mage's brother took his spear, aimed, and threw all in one
motion. Then, sword in hand, he stepped toward the winged Baaz
draconian to finish the job - but when he got near it, he saw
that it had ceased all motion. It was stone, and as Caramon
reached out his hand the statue crumbled in front of the party's
"Leave it, my brother. It was a creature of magic, and in its
death it holds no treasure for you."
"Okay, Raist - if you say so. Listen, where's Tas?"
"I'm over here - if you guys are finished fooling around with
that creep, we can go south here."
"Okay, Tas - but walk slowly," advised Tanis.
Silently the party followed their Kender guide, but the dark
brooding hourglass eyes of the mage looked from the spot where
the scroll had been to the Kender and back, and once more. There
was no humor in his eyes as he fixed them on the numerous pouches
dangling from the Kender's bulging backpack.
The party came across streets with buildings partly or
totally collapsed, rubble strewn liberally around, sometimes
filling the carcasses of roofless dwellings and almost pouring
out the glassless windows. Now and then, an Gully Dwarf would
attack them, but with the thrown axe and the short, quick,
venomous strokes of his battleaxe Flint the Hill Dwarf dispatched
them. Since his imprisonment by the wretched creatures, Aghar had
fallen much out of his sympathy.
Equally frequent were their meetings with hired men of all
kinds, humans in the service of the dark powers. The party wasted
no valuable ammunition on them and kept arrows in their quivers.
Not even Tasselhoff's hoopak sling was wasted on them; usually
Caramon threw a spear and finished the job with hand to hand
combat; occasionally Tanis or Riverwind took the lead and, with
their higher dexterity, conquered the traitors even more easily.
And if Sturm Brightblade was happening to be in front, his
opponents would feel the force of a cavalier in the strength of
his attacks; one single hit from the mighty two-handed sword
usually finished the job.
Another matter entirely were the green Draconians called
Bozaks - their use of magic and tendency to withdraw when
seriously threatened made them fearsome opponents. Mostly,
Raistlin's web spell managed to ensnare them, but never quickly
enough for the party to escape unscathed.
Not audible to the mage, Sturm whispered in Tanis' ear, "His
power has grown indeed. That web spell I've never seen before."
Tanis nodded; his eyes were fixed on the Kender who was more
dead than alive and bleeding from many places. Tasselhoff was
burned badly; but in spite of his critical condition he seemed
angry rather than scared.
"Burned me, did you? Wanted me dead? Well, now Raistlin's
spell has you trapped, and I'll finish it."
The mage looked from under his cloak, face impassive, eyes
showing interest but neither pride nor disdain. He scrutinized
the Kender's moves.
Several feet ahead of the others, Tasselhoff looked up at the
webbed Draconian, sneered, and kicked the unmoving form. Aware
that his attacker was now defenseless, he took his Hoopak and,
planning to end the creatures misery in one stroke, hit it hard.
Indeed, the Bozak stiffened - but then its flesh seemed to
evaporate, shrivelling from the bones, and immediately the bones
themselves exploded with a force that shook all party members.
All except Tas, who had stood in its center of impact and was
struck dead by the unexpected blow from the lifeless creature.
"Mishakal, Goddess of Healing, I call upon thee to restore the
powers of life to thy humble servant," Goldmoon incanted. "Allow
me to use the crystal staff to help my companion, Tasselhoff
Slowly, Goldmoon touched the far end of the staff to the
prostrate form of the unbreathing, already white-skinned Kender.
A quick flash as the staff discharged; sudden silence. Tassel-
hoff's small breast was rising, and color spread to his face and
limbs quickly. An eyelash flickered; Goldmoon touched him and
suddenly he was sitting upright. With a sheepish grin, he looked
at the seven faces of his companions.
"Oh-oh. What did I do now?"
Further in the ruins of Xak Tsaroth the company found a
pipeline. While others were debating about a more conventional
way down, Tas climbed through the whole in the wall and yelled
"Yippeeeee" all the way down, where the sound of his voice and
the impact on the cold stone floor were drowned out by alarm
bells ringing in the distance. Eager to find out just what kind
of bells they were, Tas eyed the pipe exit with clear impatience.
Then, just before he could vocalize his frustration with his
friends' total lack of initiative, he heard the sound of metal
against metal, and jumped aside just in time to see the hulk of
Caramon crash heavily into the pavement.
"I was wondering what was keeping you guys," muttered Tas.
"You'd think we had all day."
After several more encounters with always hostile creatures
and a small detour giving them a spectacular view of a fall
springing from the walls of the ruined city (which also held a
surprise) the company came to a gap in the ground, and out of the
gap came bursts of flame.
"I don't suppose we have any potion, scroll or spell that will
help us here?" Tanis asked Raistlin. The mage shook his head
almost imperceptibly. The half-elf studied the flames and, after
a short while, concluded, "Then there's only one way - jump. Can
you make it?"
Neutrally, Raistlin whispered, "I can try."
Past the hole in the floor they came to a strange-looking set
of portals, open but not more than ten feet deep. As Tas walked
into one of the small spaces, he disappeared from sight. Since he
did not return, all others followed. Now, they had been
teleported into the deepest part of the city, the very bottom of
the cave, where Khisanth should have her lair. No longer were
they attacked by Aghar and men, now it was giant spiders,
wraiths, spectral minions and hatchling black dragons. The
territory became unfriendly, and only with the correct aim of
their arrows and the help of the right clerical and magical
spells did the party prevail.
And still they saw no sign of an entrance into the Great Hall;
and so they continued to decimate the aggressive population in
the sunken city of Xak Tsaroth.
"You know, I think we'll really have to get past those fires;
it's the only way left," Goldmoon suggested.
"Last time we tried that one we had to use your staff to keep
that blasted Kender from dying - again," rumbled Flint.
"Wasn't my fault, I was just trying to..."
"All right, knock it off you two." Tanis' carrying voice had a
no-nonsense note to it neither Dwarf nor Kender found possible to
ignore. The company awaited the decision of its reluctant leader.
When, after a minute, no suggestion came, Sturm said, "I'll try
it; just a few quick jumps and..."
Tanis raised his arm.
"No, Sturm. Not you. Tas, you're still the quickest. Do you
think that with some help of potions and spells you might reach
the other side and see if it leads anywhere?"
Playing professional interest, Tas slowly started to respond,
"Well, I suppose I..." when his natural born curiosity got the
upper hand and he dashed off to the nearest intersection with a
"Can I? May I? Oh boy, finally some fun again."
Badly burned and choking, Tasselhoff cleared the second
firepit. Suddenly out of nowhere at all, arrows started to fly in
rapid succession. Although most of them were aimed high enough,
there was little chance of leaping over a firepit without getting
hit - as there was no chance of getting back for the same reason.
Tas looked carefully, shrugged, inspected it all for just a
second longer, made a "Here I go" gesture to his friends and ran
off - evading the arrow but immediately caught by the flames.
Before Tanis could say a word, Flint, usually hiding his fondness
for the Kender by acting grumpy and never much of a friend to him
unless he was in real trouble, was off to help Tas. Then Sturm,
Riverwind and Caramon stormed forward and Tanis could only sigh.
He put his own feet in motion and, clearing the first firepit,
warned Riverwind and Caramon to protect the Dwarf with their
shields while they all tried to gain safe passage.
When they finally reached the other side of the street-long
trap, it took a good deal of Goldmoon's powers to restore health
to the party. Only Goldmoon, Tanis and Raistlin seemed aware of
what that meant in their current surroundings, but the mage never
said a word. The bright light streaming through the dissected
fingers on the end of his Staff of Magius indicated that his
power was still strong. But then the powers of magic cannot heal.
Lucky for the party there were no more deathtraps; although
their surroundings were not exactly friendly they managed to
survive many hostile encounters - when Tasselhoff once more
located a pipeway down.
"Sewers?" asked Riverwind.
"That's what it looks like, said Flint after a short
inspection. "Perhaps we can sneak up on that filthy dragon from
underneath; sounds much better than a front door, don't it?"
Tanis could not disagree.
"Let's go in. Tas?"
The sewers formed a moderately complex set of intersecting
tunnels under the former city of Xak Tsaroth. With the help of
their potions, some of the largest monsters (especially the
hatchling dragons and the ugly, regenerating trolls) could be
dispatched without much trouble. Still, their magical powers were
quickly ebbing away; even Raistlin seemed at the end of his
inner forces. His breath came in short gasps; he could hardly
walk without the aid of his brother. Tanis realised that if
nothing happened soon, it would be too late.
Somewhere in the sewers they located a wand that Raistlin
could use, and also coins and gems without end. But none of this
seemed very interesting, and the party's spirits were absolutely
down when all of a sudden Tas stood rigid at a sideway.
"What's the matter now; can't you move on a little?" asked
Flint with irritation in his voice. But Goldmoon saw that
something strange was happening to the Kender. For the first time
since she had known him, he seemed more than cautious. Almost
afraid; but then Kender knew no fear.
"Tas? Is something wrong?"
"Apart from the fact that this way goes up again? Or the sound
of the heaviest breathing I've heard since Caramon - ouch!"
Caramon retrieved his elbow while the kender continued, "It's
just that - something isn't right."
When they passed through the opening and entered Khisanth's
lair, it became clear to them: here was a foe that could not be
defeated with sword, arrow or all but the mightiest magic. All
eyes of the party looked toward the only person who could save
them now; the one selected by the Goddess Mishakal for this
So far, so good for another issue of Crimson's Column.
Dragonlace part one, Heroes of the Lance, is - as you may have
guessed by now - more real-time action game than, for instance,
Phantasie or the Bard's Tale. It has some elements of Barbarian
(great graphics, good sound, two-dimensional dungeons but with
intersections changing compass direction) as well as Dungeon
Master (again, graphics and sound, but more particular the
ability to find and use different items, to use spells, plus the
fact that it's a party in a real-time dungeon) and should appeal
to those who like either of the aforementioned titles. A good
deal of AD&D rules have been implemented but are not freely
accessible. For instance, Tasselhoff (the thief) is the only one
who can disarm traps, but he does so automatically; you can't ask
him to search for traps, he either finds and disarms them
automatically, or he fails to notice them.
For those interested in a much more complete AD&D game without
action as prime interest, the waiting is for Pools of Radiance;
that should be the one with all the right rules in it. Character
generation, combat, magic, the works. Pools of Radiance is in the
make and should appear within six months.
Once more, those who wish to pose any question (I don't claim
to have the answers but as a role-player I always relish in other
folks' misery) can write me at the address below. Keep in mind
though that Pterry (remember my pet Pterodactyl?) has hibernation
ahead of her and this means she'll need to gather a good deal of
food for the cold season. Her prime interest in still Unpaying
Adventurer so I advise you to enclose a self-adressed envelope
and international reply coupons; failure to comply to this fairly
reasonable request does not mean you won't get a reply, actually
it means you'll get a flying reply. I like quick delivery.
All mail to:
Lucas van den Berg
6511 RL Nijmegen
-- The Netherlands --
Adventurer's Moral or the Month:
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth.
As You Like It
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.