A few years ago, Sovereign Press released a sourcebook for the Dragonlance setting named Legends of the Twins. Featured in this sourcebook was a bunch of socalled alternate timelines, answering the question ‘what if.’ What if Raistlin actually defeated the Queen of Darkness? What if the Kingpriest actually managed to pull off his mad plan? What if the Wizards of High Sorcery became the new aristocracy of Ansalon?
These questions and more were answered with detailed descriptions of historic events, locations, and people. Interesting concept indeed. But it wasn’t something I could see myself playing in any time soon. I was having too much fun in the “real” Ansalon.
Of course, things change. Recently Trampas asked if I’d be interested in a game set in the Magocracy of Ansalon alternate timeline. I accepted the invitation, thinking it’d be a good opportunity for us to playtest the newest version of Dungeons & Dragons. I can’t remember when I’ve last had this much fun roleplaying a character. And it’s not because of the new system.
While D&D 4e is a great system, the real reason I’m having a blast with this game is the alternate timeline we’re playing in and the way we’re playing it. I play an elven wizard, Ross (Darcwulf on the forums) a Knight of Huma, and Gary (Kendermage on the forums) plays a kender warlock.
So what’s so wonderful about gaming in an alternate timeline? Well, there’s the cool factor for one. But more importantly, playing in an alternate timeline is an excellent way for a group to breathe some new life into the setting. For instance, a world in which wizards rule the world and one’s role in society is defined by one’s arcane talents (or lack thereof) creates a very different dynamic than one in which the Dragonarmies won the War of the Lance.
Another very good reason for a group to play in an alternate timeline is the potential for new heroes and villains to shine or current heroes or villains to shine in a different light. Sturm Brightblade as a leading figure in the resistance against the rule of mages? Raistlin as the poster boy for the Order of the White Robes? Do it! Derek Crownguard as a Dragon Highlord or Laurana as a Dark Pilgrim of Takhisis? Excellent! Placing existing characters, whether heroes or villains, in an alternate timeline is something I can highly recommend. My GM certainly pulled it off.