Dragonlance As A Single Unified Setting

I was going through some old Dragonlance material that used to be on Wizards of the Coast’s site recently, and I came across this description of Dragonlance:

Dragonlance is actually two worlds now, separated into the War of the Lance (the Dragonlance Chronicles by Maragret Weis & Tracy Hickman) and the Fifth Age (as told in the Dragons of Summer Flame and the upcoming War of Souls trilogy, also by Weis & Hickman).

KrynnThat was from somewhere around 2001, prior to Dragons of a Fallen Sun’s release. It was  the culture at the time, where Dragonlance was envisioned as multiple settings. Our friend Talinthas (Shivam Bhatt) once said that he got to tour WotC around the time. They asked him which Dragonlance he liked, and his response, if I recall correctly, was that he just loved Dragonlance!

When I entered online fandom in the fall of 2000, that split was painfully obvious. When the Nexus came about, I wanted to heal that schism. So it was that I mandated that the site would support all of Dragonlance.

However, this isn’t the only schism in Dragonlance. In December 1989, TSR introduced us to the second continent of Krynn, Taladas, in the Time of the Dragon boxed set. Expanding a world is great, so long as it is an expansion. What this product did was effectively create a separate setting that had the same logo, but little else in common with the Dragonlance we all knew and love. Gone were the Orders of High Sorcery, the Knights of Solamnia, and the Dragonarmies. While some races were familiar, many were changed to not be as recognizable. Eventually, elements of Taladas were incorporated into mainstream Ansalon (i.e. afflicted kender and thinker gnomes).

What we effectively have is a “setting of settings.” While there are some cool elements to this, we land up not having a cohesive whole setting.

Many great strides have been made in terms of the timeline during the Margaret Weis Productions era. Is it enough? Could there be more improvements? Should there be a reboot to set a new starting point in the timeline without regards to the prior timeline, save for Chronicles and Legends?

At this stage in time, as we look at the future of Dragonlance, I believe that it’s high time we look at having Dragonlance as a unified, whole world. One of the biggest criticisms of Dragonlance is that there’s nothing left to explore on Ansalon. Perhaps, then, it’s time we ventured forth to the lands of Taladas, adding Dragonlance elements to this new land. What if a Tower of High Sorcery was set on Taladas as a beachhead? Should Taladas have its own knighthood, such as the Dragon Knights?

Travel between these two continents should become more accessible, though not without dangers. Swashbuckling adventures should definitely be a part of that process. Imagine coming face-to-face with a minotaur privateer vessel, or Ergothian pirates!

The time has come. Dragonlance needs to grow as a single, unified world. We need to expand our horizons, and take advantage of every resource available.

Dragonlance is not limited…it is limitless.

About Dragonhelm

Trampas “Dragonhelm” Whiteman is best known for co-creating and administering the Dragonlance Nexus fan site. He is co-author of three Dragonlance books – Holy Orders of the Stars, Knightly Orders of Ansalon, and Races of Ansalon.

When not evangelizing Dragonlance and other settings, Trampas is a husband, father, podcaster, and web designer. Trampas also enjoys reading comics, reading fantasy and scifi novels, and playing D&D.

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11 Comments

  1. Tim Shiflet (Aelfwyn)

    I remember that there have been some attempts to do this. Riva Silvercrown ended up on Taladas at one point in the comics. There is also a group of Knights of Takhisis there. I think there was some attempt in the MWP days to tie Minotaur League in with the Empire on Ansalon.

    As I think about what Taladas needs in order to tie it back in with the core setting, I agree a Tower of High Sorcery is something that should have been there from the beginning, if you accept that the gods of magic mandated the Orders.

    Also, a bigger clerical presence would help to make the gods seem less foreign to longtime fans. Since the return of the gods was what kicked the whole setting off, it seems appropriate that they be just as active on Taladas.

    The themes of rediscovery, family, humble beginnings, and the triumph of good over evil should be central.

    More than anything else, though, there needs to be a dragon as the central antagonist, and one that can only be defeated by a hero who has discovered and can wield a Dragonlance. I mean, that’s the freakin’ title of the setting.

    That’s my two cents.

  2. I agree, I know DL from the novels (which iv’e read a lot!) and played through some adventures as a player.
    At this moment i’m starting a new campaign myself with new players (who don’t know the setting at all) and find it hard to find a starting point in time and space. I’ve all the boxed setts and all the source books and a lot of modules (both 2nd and 3rd ed), which al contain lots of cool material and ideas…but the where and when question is hard.
    It was a complete study to find out how all the timelines work (age of despair, mortals etc) and integrating the Taladas boxed set in a campaign mostly set on ansalon.

  3. My two cents: I think Taladas should stay a distinct place. Although travel between the continents should be made easier, it should not come down to “globalization”. Remember, how slow news of the War of the Lance were spreading in Ansalon? It should be even slower regarding news from Taladas (and vice versa).
    The flavor of Taladas is just good as it is presented in the “Time of the Dragon” box set. (still there can and should be made changes regarding the role of the gods, see below) As told there (or rather in module DLA1, although with a muddled timeline), there already exists an order of (secret) knights: the dragon knights of Southern Hosk. Also, there is an equivalent to the Towers of High Sorcery – just remember the ancient temple of the moon gods in module DLA1.
    What is more important for me is the reason why Taladas also had been struck by a meteor. Chris Pierson in his novels tried to solve this problem by saying that the empire of Aurim had become as evil as that of Istar and that there also was some kind of kingpriest. Not very convincing in my eyes, since that seems too coincidental. I think it would make far more sense that Aurim was in some way infected by a threat that could not be “cured” by the gods otherwise than to cut it out as a whole. (maybe a threat by disir from below, or the mindflayers/yaggol from outer space) That would also explain why Mislaxa and the other gods (e.g., Hith) reappeared sooner to their Taladan followers than to their Ansalonian ones. The Ansalonians deserved punishment (or a wake-up call), the Taladans needed a miracle. And it is the irony of history that Ansalon then moved towards faith (especially in the gods of Good) while Taladas turned to a darker path.

    • Dr. Domiani. I’d like to address the destruction of Aurim. You have a good point; but I got something different from the novels. Maybe I’m assuming stuff; but this is how I see it.

      I got the impression that Aurim was on the direct opposite side of the planet from Istar. I also got the idea that the faceless one and Aurim were polar opposites of The king Priest and Istar. Here you have an example of The Balance. Two of the mightiest nations ever known on Krynn, representing two different ends of the moral spectrum. Then, both continent’s Cataclysms happened at the same time. I feel like when the mountain destroyed Istar from above, it went through the planet, destroying Aurim from underneath.

      Considering the importance the Gods of Krynn place on the balance of good and evil, I feel like this version of events has a certain poetry to it.

      • I don’t remember the source, but somewhere it is mentioned that the meteor (fiery mountain) that hit Ansalon went straight through Krynn and exited through Taladas. Two birds with one stone.

        If you look at the Krynnspace supplement for Spelljammer, there was a planet that blew up at the same time (yet another empire [theocracy?] that had to go). I thought it possible that the planet might be where the meteor came from. Take this with a grain of salt, though.

  4. I think Taladas should be different as well. Why have two Ansalons? That said, during the final battle of Blades of the Tiger, the main character climbs an ancient tower overlooking The Run in order to get a better view of the battlefield below. This tower was described as looking as if it had been blown apart from the inside. Where else have we seen towers blown apart from within? I’m not saying it’s a tower of high sorcery… but it’s certainly an opportunity.

    • Why have two Dragonlances? 😉

      I’m not saying that Taladas should be a clone of Ansalon. However, I do believe it should be more recognizable as a part of the overall setting.

      • Don’t get me wrong; I smell what you’re steppin’ in. I still want it be firmly Dragonlance as well. But some of the very things that hooked me with the Taladas trilogy was how different the commonalities were. The races and gods were there; but the dynamics between them were different. The moons were there with names that were recognizable; but people used the magic different. I really enjoyed seeing familiar things interpreted through the lens of another continent removed from Ansalon. However, I did find myself wishing for MORE of those moments. I think that would have really solidified the feeling that I was still in the same setting.

        PS: I really like the thought that the fiery mountain could have come from another planet that may have had it’s own cataclysm as well. That’s pretty cool.

  5. Kitiara's Boyfriend

    The inconsistencies between Ansalon and Taladas has been gnawing at me since the original ‘Time of the Dragon’ boxed set came out, but there’s no question in my mind that the setting as a whole needs a comprehensive reboot to address all of the other nonsensical additions and contradictions that have popped up over the years.

    Unfortunately I don’t think such a thing would be possible without some sort of ‘official’ stamp of approval. There are just too many voices to be heard without a central authority running the show and having the will to make possibly unpopular decisions. And, in the end, it might all be for naught, as you run the risk of splitting the fan base all over again with people wholly refusing to accept any change at all.

    That said, in the interests of being constructive, I think the place to start is to establish the points of consensus first and then proceed down into the detail (where most disagreements will occur) from there. Just as individual and specific laws in a democracy all, in theory, descend from a much more general constitution, so should a revamp of Dragonlance begin with some general statements of principle before specific changes are made or even touted. Ten or twenty principles that can be agreed upon by a majority would be sufficient for the project to begin and would likely save many arguments down the line.

    Simply establishing the need for a revamp is a good place to start.

    A few other examples off the top of my head might be :

    *As Ansalon has served as the primary setting for most Dragonlance products, where possible, it will be preferred that the established timeline of Ansalon be maintained and extrapolated over what may have been the published history of other lands,.
    *As Chronicles and Legends serve as the foundation for the Dragonlance campaign setting, where possible, this published material will take precedence over subsequently published material.
    *Where a person/event/fact is referenced by multiple sources of published material, it will take precedence over the single or few sources that contradict that person/event/fact.
    *Not every change will be embraced by every fan. We acknowledge this at the outset and agree that we are all united in the common goal of seeing Dragonlance be the best that it can be. Objections to any particular change will always be respectful and offered with this goal in mind.
    *The stewards of the project will attempt to provide justification for any change that is opposed by a significant number of fans/contributors
    *Common sense to apply to all of the above.

    Maybe a little verbose, but you get the idea.

    For me, the MWP stuff was a valiant attempt at bringing cohesion to the setting, but it was an attempt to please all of the people all of the time. A worthwhile revamp of Dragonlance would have to be unafraid of cutting the dead weight for the greater good.

    My personal preference is that he revamp would have everything after Legends on the table for review and try and rebuild from that point up until the Summer of Chaos. I would discard the Fifth Age entirely, but that’s just me. The dragon overlords storyline could, I think, also be reimagined to be more cohesive with the previously established flavour of the setting. Taladas’ history should be charted in parallel to the events taking place in Ansalon and points of converegence and divergence identified and extrapolated upon. The further back in time you go, the more similar the continents should be.

    Just my two cents, anyway. Great topic.

  6. I started to remark about your idea to revitalize the Dragonlance campaign through the unification of its settings. In my treatise on the forum, I mention that Taladas timeline and history gives evidence of it being the birthplace of the draconians and the WotL Dragonarmy and had several elements in its demographics which prove an intrinsic association with Ansalon.

    The way the timeline described it, the Devastation came about after the arrival of the exiled dragons from Ansalon. At that time, there were empires already present on the continent – the Empire of Aurim and they fought the dragons and other evil races to defend their holdings. That however did not stop the dragons from becoming embedded into the continent. Which would justify why some dragons choose not to acknowledge the call to war, instead staying on Taladas to protect their hoards.

    The Dragons changed the balance of power and political landscape of the continent and when they departed to go to war, I would imagine the people and societies of Taladas, already suffering from the Devasation, were brought to the brink of civilization in a fashion similar to countries colonized and abandoned in our history. Lawless, violence, confusion and despair would be prevalent, but those things are like the bittersweet pit from which the tree of liberation and self-discovery can grow. There were the remnants of culture and knowledge scattered throughout the continent

    The Dragons effect on the land were not very detailed aside from the experimental Draconians which were created and thrived in their abandonment. (I already know this concept will start a stir in the community) but the Orlox which are completely underutilized would be a great explanation for the origin of the Dragon Overlords. Here is my thought – a dragon’s hoard is an extension of them and in a fashion part of its spirit. Abandoning their hoards for the call of the Dark Queen, the orlox could have assumed the hoards and grew in size and power as a result. So when the world trips into the Fifth Age, these hungry, greedy dragons push westward to find more to sate their gluttony.

    I support KB’s thought that you have to create cohesion in the past to bring the two continents forward in the gaming ages. That is why I chose the days prior to the War of the Lance. It makes sense to me given the TotD information that the Dragonarmy launched from the southern coastline of Taladas and made land first in Nordmaar. The Taladasian army would have begun its campaign of recruitment among the horsemen of Nordmaar, which from the MWP version it sounded like that is what it did. The Green Army manipulated and absorbed territory and holdings in the early days while the other heads bolstered their strength from the spoils of the Green Army’s political campaign which spanned far south to the edge of Sylvanesti. The rise of the Red Army as the head of the Dragonarmy could be a great story of internal conflict in the early history of the Dragonarmy where betrayal may be the cause for the loss of the original Taladasian Dragon Lords.

    I have also considered that some of the flotsam of the destroyed Istar and refugees from the Cataclysm play a role in the development of Taladas. It was clearly stated that Silvanesti and Minotaur sailors landed and established kingdoms in Taladas. Ironically, it was implied in TotD that the Silvanaes are overlords to the human population that has benefited from their “civilization” and the Minotaurs create a more balanced government that is supported by the majority of its citizenry. And to note, the League is in an imperial state of mind which means these maritime bovines would explore the far reaches of the world and provide a conduit for globalization of the setting and countless new stories (Men and minotaurs of the Minotaur League sailing out to explore and conquer the world).

    Taladas has its knights and its mages. The most important tie in with Ansalon is the tradition in both. Magic will be the same around the world and only changes depended on the age. In fact, Taladas may have more occurrences of sorcerers, magic users born of private study and natural talent. Likewise, mystics may have been the only leaders some tribespeople may have had to shepherd them through the dark times.

    I realize i am running a rant, but I have been onboard for a revamp of Dragonlance for a long time. And honestly, I do not see a reason to trash any aspect of the old novels. I have seen most of the novels as perspectives on the events of their Ages. A new Dragonlance, in my mind’s eye, begins with an age of peace and students in the Library of Palanthas plumbing through the archives and discovering the scrolls of Astinus which we all agree are suppose to be the accurate account of the history of Krynn. Therein lay an unfolding of the world of Krynn in a greater scope, one that was neither available or comprehensible before the New Age.

    But these ideas are just the surface of my thoughts on the subject. Later.

  7. Although I understand the difficulties of the initial acceptance of both continents as reflections of the same world, but TotD already established some associations between the two continents – Taladas was the source of the Dragonarmy, the birthplace of the draconians, the home of a totalitarian Silvan silvanesti kingdom and the Minotaur league.

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