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Overview

Death Knights of Krynn is the second in a three volume series of titles set in AD&D's Dragonlance campaign setting developed by SSI using their Gold Box Engine. It would be followed by The Dark Queen of Krynn (1992) and was preceded by Champions of Krynn (1990).

The game begins a year following the events of Champions of Krynn. The player controls a party of adventurers who are typically the same heroes that had put down the forces of evil in the previous game. They are invited to Gargath Outpost to celebrate their victory when the game begins.

It is part of SSI's Gold Box series of games based on TSR's 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons rules and set in the Forgotten Realms. It continues to the use the Gold Box engine first pioneered with Pool of Radiance and then enhanced for use in this series with Gateway to the Savage Frontier. Because it is based on the same engine behind SSI's Gold Box series of RPGs. only the setting has changed.

The game, based as it is on the Gold Box engine, continues to use the grid-based, 3D system wherein the world is viewed from a first-person perspective with 90° turns and movement spaces. As with nearly every Gold Box game, party members were displayed in the upper right hand corner along with hit points and armor class. Random enemy encounters would provide combat opportunities within the game against mixed groups of foes, providing experience.

When combat would start, a tactical turn-based system was used to display the battlefield viewed from an isometric perspective. Every member of the party including each monster were shown as individual icons that had a limited number of moves onscreen. The player was challenged to maneuver their party on the map, take cover behind obstacles such as wells, or even block doorways and act as tanks in order to protect their spellcasters.

Upon starting, a verification question is shown which directed the player to find the indicated word answer in either the rule book (the manual) or the included Adventurer's Journal. The disks themselves did not have any copy protection allowing players to make copies and play on them instead.

As with the previous games, there was an extensive amount of documentation included with the package:

  • A basic manual with setup instructions and an outline of the rules
  • An Adventurer's Journal going into detail on the races, classes, and the magic system of the game; it would also double as an additional layer of copy protection as it contained the scene description references for the game. It would also recount a summary of the War of the Lance leading up to the events in the post-war environment of Ansalon and where the party steps in to help solve a mystery
  • A Quick Reference card for commands

Characters could be transferred from the previous game, Champions of Krynn. However, if they are transferred in before completing that game, they may lose some items as a result.

Story

Peace has arrived on Ansalon in the year following the defeat of the forces of darkness in Champions of Krynn. With the aurak draconian Myrtani's defeat, so ended his plans to destroy the armies of the forces of good that had rallied to stop him not knowing that they were walking into a trap. Had it not been for the efforts of a group of daring adventurers aided by heroes such as Sir Karl of the Solamnic Knights, all would have been lost.

An invitation is soon sent out to celebrate this event a year later, at the Gargath Outpost, and as everyone gathers, Sir Karl attacks! He had died in the previous adventure, a victim of Myrtani's minions, and has apparently become an undead knight atop an equally undead dragon. He steals the Dragonlance, a powerful weapon against dragons, from its display and leaves behind a pile of cursed weapons in its place. Maya, his former lover and a silver dragon in human form, transforms herself to take flight after his retreating form.

Those that have dared to take the cursed weapons left behind by Sir Karl, perhaps thinking to fight him, have also become corrupted as a result and the party will encounter them throughout the adventure. Only by taking these weapons away do these people return to their senses.

In the wake of the attack, everyone retreats back to Gargath Outpost as more evil forces arrive. Besieged, the party battles their way through many challenges within its walls. They also encounter an old knight that claims to have seen this battle in his dreams and gives them a Sleepstone in which it was captured. He tells them to seek the Dream Merchant in Kalaman in order to discern its secrets as well as find meaning behind these events.

After breaking the siege, the party heads to Kalaman as instructed and meet the local Knight Commander, Daine, and his consort, Ariela. Daine tells them the worst: he suspects that the undead were summoned by none other than Lord Soth, a powerful and legendary Death Knight. As they talk with the Commander, they also hear of an account on the search for the cleric, Sebas Astmoor, who appears to be helping the dread knight. Ariela also lets it slip that the Dream Merchant they seek has a shop in Vingaard, but they also discover too late that he has been kidnapped.

The party receives an invitation to parlay for the Dream Merchant's release but during the meeting, Lord Sorth's minions attack. In the chaos, the Dream Merchant escapes leaving the party to fight their way free. After they succeed, they track the Merchant to Vingaard Keep's Crook Street. They discover the Dream Merchant and whether or not they had broken the truce between themselves and the kidnappers in Kalaman, will either test them first with several dream battles or simply decide to help them.

The interpretation that the Dream Merchant gives them indicates that the cleric. Sebas Astmoor, has renounced his ties to Soth and may be the party's best means of defeating the Death Knight. They quickly seek him out and find him. He reveals that he is trying to find a party powerful enough to hold the Rod of Omniscience. The artifact, if left in the wrong hands, could allow the dark goddess Takhisis to lay waste to all of Krynn. But in order to trust the party with the Rod's location, he first tests them.

He sends the party on a quest to defend the crypts there from Lord Soth who intends to raise the dead there into an undead army. They arrive at the tower only to discover that Lord Soth has already begun his work and are faced with many undead that they are forced to fight through. They meet an old knight, Sir Durfey, who joins their party after they help him.

But they discover that they are too late to stop Lord Soth and his party. The bodies of many Knights, including that of the famous Hero of the Lance, Sturm Brightblade, have already been taken. They pursue the thieves into the tunnels below and learn that the forces that had attacked the tower were led by Sir Garren, a knight that had been cursed with one of the weapons that Sir Karl had left behind at Gargath. They chase the undead army and defeat the red dragon with them, narrowly managing to rescue Sir Garren from his curse and recover many of the bodies.

Unfortunatey, Lord Soth has escaped with several of the others along with Sturm Brightblade's, bodies he intends to convert into new Death Knights. With enough of these at his command, he intends to crush his enemies once and for all and may succeed with such power at his disposal.

The party returns to Vingaard with the news and Sebas sends them to the Dragon Pit to deal with Sir Karl as a further test. The Dragon Pit is an ancient temple to the dark goddess, Takhisis, and Sebas' suspicions that Sir Karl is still there prove to be true. They also encounter Maya who has also followed the clues to find her beloved. However, the reunion is washed in blood as Sir Karl ambushes her with the Dragonlance. Wounded deeply with the weapon, she takes to the skies with the Dragonlance still driven into her, Sir Karl hanging onto it as the two disappear into the clouds. A moment later, the Dragonlance falls to the ground.

They return to Vingaard and find that Sebas has been abducted with clues pointing to Kalaman and Ariela. At Kalaman, they contact Sir Daine who is mercilessly killed when he confronts Ariela. The party confront her and are stunned to watch her transform into a red dragon aided by sivak draconians. Upon defeating her, they discover that she had been sent by Kitiara, the consort of Lord Soth. The party also manages to rescue a knight to whom Sebas revealed the location of the Rod to as being somewhere in the Voice Wood.

They discover more clues in Kalaman indicating that Ariela often visited a town called Cerberus and in going there, discover that the mayor has been assassinated. Attending the funeral, the graveyard around them explodes with undead rising from their tombs and graves. The mystic wards that had protected it were stolen by a gravedigger corrupted by Lord Soth and the party manages to recover them, restoring their power.

Ariela also had a key on her that the party discovers will open a way into Dargaard Keep, the home of Lord Soth. They meet with Lenore, a thief who is looking for her own fortune, who helps them avoid several traps before leaving their company. Sir Durfey offers to escort her home and the two leave the party.

They return to Cerberus and find the town under attack by more undead. The fortune teller in the town, however, is in league with Lord Soth and is leading the attack. The town's cleric is captured by the fortune teller which complicates matters as they were the only one able to open the town's armory. They rescue the cleric and slay the fortune teller, allowing the town to arm themselves and defeat the undead.

The party then heads to Voice Wood to recover the Rod of Omniscience but before they can reach it, they must pass through the town of Dulcimer. The town is a mirror image of Cerberus created by a powerful lich based on his memories. He does not wish to fight the party, but has sworn to Lord Soth not to let anyone through. With no other choice, the party is forced to destroy the lich and the anchor for his soul, his phylactery, allowing them to pass into the Voice Wood.

They discover that the Voice Wood is a faerie glen and, thus, one of the few places where good still reigns so near to Dargaard Keep. They parlay with the spirits of the wood and convince them to release the rod into their care.

With the Rod, the party head into the keep and reunite with Sebas Astmoor, rescue Sturm's body, and discover that Lenore has returned to help them. But they also discover that Sir Durfey, her escort, did not survive and returns as an undead knight. After defeating him, they confront Lord Soth and strike him with the Rod of Omniscience, banishing him to another dimension.

Lenore suddenly reveals herself to be Kitiara and tries to steal back the rod in order to send the party into another dimension as well. However, Sebas had given her false instructions on how to use the device. The Rod is destroyed as a result as Kitiara is sent to another dimension herself and the party is teleported to the High Clerist's tower.

The battle is won with the party hailed as heroes, but as they will discover in the next chapter, the war has only begun.

Gameplay

Death Knights of Krynn is the second game in the Dragonlance series of SSI's Gold Box titles. The same Gold Box engine that was created for Pool of Radiance continues to see use in this campaign series with few changes. All of the gameplay mechanics are based on the 2nd edition of the Dungeons and Dragons ruleset, otherwise known as AD&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) from TSR.

Players begin Death Knights of Krynn by creating a party of six heroes. The parameters used in creating each character include race, class, affiliation & alignment as well as the likeness of the icon that will appear in combat. These factors will dictate what sorts of weapons & armor your characters can use, if they use magic & what kind of spells they can learn.

After creating the type of character, players can determine the value of a series of attributes that he or she will begin the game with. Players can roll and re-roll their statistics until satisfied with the levels of Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma, Hit Points, Armor Class and Experience Points. Players' approach to the game will depend on the mix of characters to be added to your party.

Once the party is assembled, gameplay consists of taking assignments from the commandants of Knight outposts and NPCs in the towns which you visit as well as encounters you have while traveling between locations on the overworld map. Combat is turn based and includes character movement which impacts tactical decisions such as ranged vs melee attacks, deployment of party members and order of targeting. Successful battles will result in the party earning XP & currency as well as looting items and weapons from your fallen enemies.

Races

With the introduction of the Gold Box series as a part of the Dragonlance campaign series with this title, seven races are now available for players to choose from and is the first step in creating a new character. Before, in the series based on the Forgotten Realms setting, only six races were available.

Players can also select what kind of sex their character is which has no effect on their abilities, only in their appearance for the character portrait.

  • Mountain Dwarves: Excellent warriors, expert craftsmen, and strong workers, they also harbor a strong hate for giants and their diminutive nature allows them to dodge their attacks much easier. Their hate for goblins and hobgoblins also gives them bonuses in battle against their kind. They are also a hardy race and able to resist the effects of magic and poison.
  • Hill Dwarves: They are just as stubborn and as tough as Mountain Dwarves although not as charmismatic.
  • Qualinesti Elves: Long lived and resistant to sleep and charm spells, elves are often considered among the best spellcasters in the Realms although they are also skilled with a sword. They cannot be resurrected, however, but they can multi-class in many more different combinations than others. They are also much friendlier than their Silvanesti cousins.
  • Silvanesti Elves: They are just like the Qualinesti, although are typically more arrogant.
  • Half-elves: These share the hardiness of their human half along with the sleep and charm resistances of their elven parent, but not their long lives. And like their elven parents, are capable of noticing things out of the ordinary.
  • Human: The most common race on Ansalon, they are average in most respects but have no major weaknesses, either. Capable of dual classing.
  • Kender: They are a diminutive people who bear an extreme curiosity often "misinterpreted" by others as thievery. They are very resistant to magic and poison and can easily taunt others with a silver tongue often making their opponents go into an uncontrollable rage. Their dexterity adds to their accuracy with their weapon of choice, the hoopak, or in picking a few locks to satisfy their inquisitive nature.

Attributes

Each character has a set of basic attributes that affect various abilities as defined by the 2ed AD&D rules that the game is based on.

These determine factors such as combat prowess and how many spells a magic user can memorize before they must rest and re-acquire their spells once again. During character creation, the player may re-roll as many times as they want. Prime requisite attributes are those that are a requirement for certain classes. For example, Fighters must have a good Strength score in order to be effective.

The natural maximum for any attribute is an 18, although it can go higher depending on factors such as race and magical effects. Throughout the game, unless it is due to an outside intervention such as a spell or a piece of equipment, these attributes never change even when a character levels.

  • Strength (STR) - determines physical power and damage with weapons; also affects encumbrance in combat
  • Dexterity (DEX) - reflexes and the ability to remain hard to hit in combat; affects ranged weapons such as bows as well as a thief's abilities
  • Constitution (CON) - a character's health is determined by this and hit points are derived from this score and a bonus calculated against it with every level. This also determines a character's chances for coming back to life with a resurrection spell, but in the process, a point of constitution is permanently lost.
  • Charisma (CHA) - affects the perception that others have of a character
  • Intelligence (INT) - affects the ability to reason and think. This is an important score for magic users as it determines how many spells they can memorize and use per level.
  • Wisdom (WIS) - this is important to clerics and determines how many spells they can store in memory and use

Attributes, such as Strength and Dexterity, are also affected by the selection of race and certain bonuses and minuses are spread across them as a result. For examples, dwarves are inherently stronger than the other races and, thus, have a bonus to their Strength and Constitution scores.

Alignment

AD&D's alignment system determines what a character's outlook is. Players can choose what alignment their character starts off with, although actions within the game can slowly shift it. Certain character classes are very much restricted to certain alignments.

  • Lawful Good - Characters that are based on this alignment strictly interpret the rules and respect order above all else for the benefit of everyone
  • Lawful Neutral - Moderation is far more important than the extreme, balancing their decisions between good and evil
  • Lawful Evil - The strong survive to enslave the weak, but one must rule in order to conquer and order must keep those that follow this character in line. An army is always stronger than a mob.
  • Neutral Good - Some rules are needed along with the freedom to decide what is best depending on the situation at hand
  • True Neutral - Everything must be balanced; both good and evil have their place and neither must overcome the other
  • Neutral Evil - Law and chaos aren't as important as the results in bringing evil to the world
  • Chaotic Good - Random actions and the freedom to implement them are more important than the rules in valuing life and ensuring the welfare of others
  • Chaotic Neutral - Randomness and chaos are more preferable to being evil or good
  • Chaotic Evil - This character will go to any lengths to grab power and influence, disregarding anything that may make sense or in cooperating with others to achieve their goals. Unpredictable and ruthless.

Classes

Gender is treated only as a cosmetic choice in the game as with many others, but race plays a major part in determining what classes a character may be restricted in playing as. The game allows dual and even triple classing among characters depending on certain options such as race.

From the stock of basic classes, players can pick from certain combinations, although experience is divided among the classes that a character belongs to. As a result, they level much more slowly than a character dedicated to a single class.

The basic classes are:

  • Fighters - They can fight with any armor or weapons, but have no magical ability. When they reach 7th level, they can get an extra attack per round.
  • Solamnic Knights - They are the pinnacle of chivalric honor on Krynn and are divided into three orders: the Knights of the Crown, the Knights of the Sword, and the illustrious Knights of the Rose. They start out with plate mail, a long sword, and a shield, but with very few coins to spend. In addition to this vow of poverty, 10% of their monies are sent back to the order every time an outpost is visited. When Knights of the Sword or Rose rise to sixth level, they are able to use some clerical spells.
  • Rangers - They are a fighter and can defend themselves without the need for armor and weapons if need be. They do bonus damage against giant-sized creatures and must be of good alignment.
  • Thieves - They can disarm traps, undo locks, and help themselves to anything that isn't well protected. They can't wear any armor heavier than leather, but they can backstab in combat for critical damage.
  • Clerics - Fighting priests that can wield a mace, but no edged or pointed weapons, as well as use armor. They pray for their spells and automatically memorize any of the spells available for a level when they reach it. Clerics can only be of an alignment the same as that of their chosen god.
  • Magic Users - Powerful spellcasters are always welcome in any party. They start out weak and remain physically fragile throughout their careers, but the powers they command at higher levels can rend parties of monsters apart in the blink of an eye. Nothing like a little human-sized artillery to bring onto a battlefield. On Ansalon, their spells are also affected by the wax and wane of its moons. As with Knights, mages are also split into three orders based on alignment with their own strengths, abilities, and favored moon.

    White Robes - good aligned mages belong to this order
    Red Robes - those of a neutral persuasion belong to this order
    Black Robes - evil mages are often members of this order; cannot be PC characters in this game
  • Paladin - A new addition to the series. Although the role of Solamnic Knight had assumed its place in the roster in the previous game ( Champions of Krynn), it makes a return as a playable class here. They must be of Lawful Good alignment, can cast Cure Disease once a week, and at ninth level gain the ability to cast clerical spells. They also have the ability to turn undead, particularly useful in this chapter of SSI's Dragonlance saga, as if they were a cleric at two levels below their actual level.

Non-human characters can multi-class with a mix of these to enhance their abilities by sharing skills across them, although they level up at a slower rate because of the experience distribution across different disciplines.

The Moons of Magic

The three moons of Krynn figure prominently within the game's magic system depending on their phases: Solinari (the white moon), Lunitari (the red moon), Nuitari (the black moon). Their phases are displayed onscreen as a part of the interface.

Mages of the White Robes, for example, gain their power from the white moon, Solinari, and gain two additional memorized spells as a result of it being a full moon.

Locations

Many towns have the same locations within them, offering a variety of services:

  • Inns - These provide a safe place to rest although it will cost some coin.
  • Shops - A variety of supplies such as armor, healing salves, and nearly anything else that the party may need can be purchased here. Inventory changes from time to time.
  • Temple - Where healing and resurrections can take place if the party has enough coin to donate. Resurrections are particularly expensive.
  • Bar - Visiting one of these allows the player to catch up on the latest news and gossip within an area
  • Vault - Maintained by the Solamnic Order, deposits of money (not equipment) can be made at each branch in allotments of 100 pieces at a time. A fee is also charged for teh service.
  • Commandant's Office - Where the party goes to receive mission briefings

Overland

Overland travel was displayed when the party left a civilized area such as a town or an outpost. Cursor keys allowed the player to maneuver them across this map and the Area command could toggle the view between the 3D first-person look or back to the overland view depending on availability. Random encounters would often make travel dangerous, but unavoidable. Likewise, travelers encountered on the road may offer their help with certain services.

Proximity to certain areas on the map will generate specific encounter groups based on the makeup of the region. For example, moving further east into dangerous lands will spawn encounters with hill giants, great spiders, and draconians.

Combat

The Gold Box RPGs had standardized themselves with a basic system that was shared across most of the party-based entries. The interface both for party management and information display were similar across titles such as this one making it easier for veterans to get into the game and creating a similar look.

Fighting in the game continues to be handled through random and set encounters wherein experience, items, and gold are earned. When combat begins, an isometric view (the combat map) is presented with every member and attacking monster shown as an icon.

It is a turn based system with each side taking their turns to maneuver and issue commands. This tactical approach, in conjunction with the obstacles present onscreen such as walls and doorways, allowed the player to create their own strategies.

Initiative played an important role in determining who goes first. Each round is divided into ten segments and every character and foe act on a specific segment determined by their initiative. Actions can be delayed and held until the end of round and the computer can fight for the player using the Quick command.

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