Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Hickman Saves the Hobby

 Tracy Hickman.  Tracy bleedin' Hickman.  In the mid 1980s his name was everywhere in D&D.  For those who aren't familiar, he was the co-author of the Dragonlance series, as well as the writer of the original Ravenloft module, most of the Desert of Desolation series, and Rahasia, along with supplements for other games.  It was his work that spawned the Dragonlance and Ravenloft settings, which were heavily supported throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Tracy Hickman wrote some classic stuff, that's undeniable.  The original Ravenloft is a masterpiece, a ground breaking module which brought home the concept of an intelligent villain who toys with the party and hunts them down, unlike so many other modules in which the bad guys so often sat waiting in their lair. The opening module of the Desert of Desolation series, Pharaoh, is a highly imaginative romp through an Egyptian inspired pyramid.  Great stuff.

BUT. His writing style was heavy handed.  All too often he started an adventure in an overly forceful manner, even in the 2 adventures above - Ravenloft trapped the party in Barovia, Pharoah had the party convicted of some random crime. Worse though, he was the master of the railroad, adventures which moved the party from one planned location or situation to the next, step by step, no matter what they did or how they resolved the issue.  Ravenloft was free of this, but the Desert of Desolation series, for all its merits, was linear.  The main culprit however, was Dragonlance.