Welcome back, Gentle Readers. As we’ve developed the Beyond the Borderlands campaign, we’ve thought of various elements of history, largely due to things suggested by the ideas we’ve had about the races, classes, and other elements of the game world. Now, we’re going to begin to put these elements in order and flesh out the various events, in order to begin to know something about the campaign we’re developing.
Where to Begin
In order to get started, I sit down with my campaign notebook and the articles I’ve written. Going through them, I make a list of historical events that I allude to in them. I make this fairly big picture. I can lump the creation of the world, the creation of most of the races, and such into one event, which I’ll call, creatively, “Creation”. I note this down in a word document and delve back in and type each event on a line until I have a jumbled list of events I know must have happened in order to accommodate the various ideas I’ve had. For example, I know that a Great Dwarven Empire once existed, but that it doesn’t exist any longer. Knowing this, I jot down two events in my list – the Great Dwarven Empire’s founding and its fall.
Once I have this list, I begin to cut and paste, moving events around to make a logical thread. For example, I put Creation at the top of the list. There may be other elements that would come before the world’s creation, such as wars between the gods and such, but I don’t have anything specific in mind, so Creation goes on top. Logically, I know the Founding of the Great Dwarven Empire comes before the Fall of the Great Dwarven Empire.
Some events won’t fall immediately into place. I don’t, for example, automatically know when the Gnomes left the Feywold to come to the world, by comparison to the other events. I leave these sorts of events aside for now, and, when I have the logical framework filled in, I make some decisions, for now at least, about the other events. Since Rock Gnomes settled near the dwarves in the mountains, I decide to have the gnomes emigrate from the Feywild sometime before the fall of the Great Dwarven Empire, so I insert it into the timeline between the Founding and the Fall.
Filling In the Details
Once I have my list of events, I begin to ponder it as a more cohesive story. A timeline, after all, isn’t the full story of history – it’s just a series of facts. Also, I have a few ideas that haven’t shown up in my articles, such as an age, early on, when dragons ruled the world, and another age when hobgoblins conquered a large chunk of the land. So, as I begin to ponder the world history, I try to decide when these things happened as well.
Once I add elements like these to my story, I really begin to see an emerging pattern. This is a world where empires are born, clash, and fall, much like our own. In this case, however, we have a word for the force that causes this: Chaos. The struggle between Order (represented by the Gods and the PC races) and Chaos (represented primarily by a nebulous power or powers and the monster races) will play a major part in this campaign. I will keep that in mind as I spin the story of the campaign.
I’m assuming that the Far Realm will exist in this iteration of D&D, although I don’t have any proof of this. I have the idea that the Far Realm is strongly related to Chaos. I keep this in the back of my mind as I write my history, and I’ll keep my eyes open for more specifics when D&D Next is published.
The Story Emerges
At first, there was only Darkness, and Chaos roiled in the darkness, being and unbeing, endlessly. Then the Gods came from somewhere within the darkness, sailing ships in the darkness. Where they traveled, silver starlight awoke, creating the Astral Sea. The Gods brought Order with their silver lights, forcing back the dark and set about building a Haven for themselves. For this Haven, they worked tirelessly, mining the Elements for building materials. They built a fantastic kingdom for themselves…but at the edges, Chaos and Darkness seethed, wishing to reclaim what was once theirs.
When their labors were done, the Gods were pleased, but they felt empty, for they were alone, other than their angels and servants which were just extensions of themselves. They desired to create life, but there was nowhere for life to exist. Taking elements left over from the building of Haven, they fashioned a world to hang in the darkness. The world was beautiful and perfect and orderly, hanging in the dark, illuminated by starlight. But just beyond the starlight, Chaos hungered and wanted to destroy the creation of the Gods.
On this world, the Gods began to create Life. They began with plants and grasses, then worked up to small things: insects, fish, lizards. Slowly, they branched into birds and mammals, then, finally, began creating the thinking peoples: dragons, dwarves, elves, giants, halflings, humans, and more.
But Chaos was not pleased. With each new creation, the Gods were imposing more Order. Seething with fury, Chaos crept in and twisted the creations of the Gods. The animals they touched became monstrous. Some, like the ankheg, were simply insects that swelled to enormous size. Others, like the owlbear, were twisted together from more than one creation. Still others, like the beholder and the mind flayer, were pure chaos given form. And worst of all, the members of the precious thinking peoples that were touched became evil and twisted, becoming goblins, orcs, bugbears, and other creatures in the service of Chaos.
The Gods did not sit idly by, but they came from Haven with their angels to fight. A terrible battle raged across the world for ages, but, finally, the power of Chaos was forced back into the darkness, although the creatures they had twisted remained in the world. The Gods returned to Haven with heavy hearts, but they promised they would never desert their creations again, but would grant their powers to mortals, giving rise to the first clerics and paladins, ensuring that the world would have protectors and healers should Chaos return in force.
The Tale Will Continue
Well, just talking about the process and going over these first couple of elements has brought us to a healthy length of article, and we’re barely started. Next time, we’ll continue our history lesson. If you have questions or comments in the meantime, please let me know.