I started the game with boxed text, and allowed everyone to describe how their characters have changed in the past five years:
- Sol, the 6th level human adept, had passed his tests at the Towers of High Sorcery and returned to tell his friends that though he did not believe in gods he did believe that something was about to happen.
Rex, the 5th level dwarf expert, had prospered and become wealthy but returned to Solace to check up on his human friends.
Gunther, the 4th level human warrior, is now 19 and invincible. Not only has he managed to stay alive, the former torchbearer-for-hire is now a capable warrior.
Grima, the 4th level human expert, is alive but unhappy. She has lost an eye, and now sits with her back to the corner and her hand near her sword.
The party escorted the couple to the Inn of the Last Home, where patrons took notice of Goldmoon's blue crystal staff and told the party that mysterious men have been asking about it. Even though Gunther had no social skills whatsoever, he was able to "befriend" the barmaid Tika with his casual disregard for danger. Despite Grima's Notice skill, she repeatedly failed to notice the draconian who kept looking through the window.
When the Inn closed for the night, Tika allowed Gunther to walk her home. As luck would have it, Tika noticed a lurking draconian and was able to alert Gunther before he was hurt. He fenced with the draconian (1st level adept/2nd level warrior) until Tika returned with help: Gunther learned about how to reroll damage saves with conviction, Sol learned how Empower was the root of all fatigue, but the kill went to Bessie, Rex's magical crossbow. Grima, with poor depth perception and worse luck, repeatedly stabbed the air.
With greater moxie than the classic Dragonlance adventurers, the party convinced Riverwind and Goldmoon to flee Solace in the dead of night (Gunther didn't like abandoning Tika, but Rex convinced him that she was safer in Solace). The party then cut cross-country straight into Darkenwood (because the roads could not be trusted), avoiding at least three enemy encounters. The unicorn encounter (along with its accompanying prose) made them roll their eyes, but they all agree to go to Xak Tsaroth to receive the "greatest gift given to the world".
Once in the swamp, the party handily dealt with the draconian ambush (web and sleep from 2nd level adept/2nd level warrior bozaks were not match for strong swordarms and fireballs). Swinging wide of the fake black dragon, the party then crept to the city ruins by dawn. Like a well-trained team of shadowrunners, the party scounted the city, avoided patrols, and then convinced a group of stupid gully dwarves to give them directions to the dragon's lair (conviction allowed Rex to Mass Suggest the foolish dwarves).
The black dragon Khisanth was a moderate challenge. Gunther charged: critical hit + critical failure on the damage save by Khisanth = conviction point from the DM. Sol then erected a Ward against dragonbreath, because no one knew that the blue crystal staff could protect them. A lot of slashing and stabbing and shooting later, a stunned Khisanth was bashed to death by the blue crystal staff. Win goes to the story...
- Poker chips under minis really helped me track damage conditions (white was a hit, red was a wound, and blue was one level of fatigue). Khisanth had five white/red chips under it when the adventure ended, while Sol had four blue chips (unconscious).
Magical healing can't be beat.
The Dragonlance Classic adventures were cheesier than I remembered.