History in Your RPG

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Originally Featured in the Saga, Issue 4.

Not everyone is Tolkien, but every tabletop setting is benefitted by an in depth history. But creating one can be a daunting task. The first thing to do is get past the fear of starting. Just pick a point. It can always be changed, edited, and tweaked later. In fact, I guarantee you will do all of those.

Getting Started 

When I started the timeline for the Dark Return I literally picked a date and started from there with a single event, the Great War. Imaginative right? But from there I started asking questions and answering them. Like what caused the Great War? What was the world like after that? This gave a great starting place that I have slowly built on over the last 2 decades. 

The Timeline has grown in that time and has slowly needed to be split down into world events and local events. The main thing is to make sure all the time lines are easy to find in your notes and that they line up for any big events that happen in the world or in your gameplay. 

Fact or Fiction? 

Another useful tool I employ is the fact or myth label. When I put a disputed event in my Timeline I can make it a Truth or Myth. This allows me to keep track of what the people of the world believe, and what I know has actually happened. This creates a very realistic timeline, as our own history is dependent on the historian. 

World Timeline Example:

  • 4656 Strange stories come from Pardalor. Stories of Orovari, orlocks, and goblins openly entering the town. The Orovari migrate south to the lands of Uthgard. Questions about the King, Olaekin Baleband begin to arise. His unnaturally long life ( currently 130 years) and his seclusiveness earn distrust within those of the kingdom. He is also rumored to be a practitioner of black arts. During this time and many experiments, Baleband and Daloron learn to extend life and vitality longer.
  • 4695 Emperor Kalah of the Ish bans the use of books. During this time many of the ancient texts and tomes are burnt. He also empowers the people of the Jaldur desert, promising them their own nation if they rid the Wildelands of the elves. This leads to a genocide of the wild elves and though they finally push back and defeat the Jaldurians, they are left weakened and forever scarred.
  • 4729 The Mages of the West create the Gatestone. Myth: Fearing what they have created, they lock it away deep within their keep. Truth: The mages continue to experiment, and trade knowledge with kingdoms that will pay for it.
  • 4735 Some mages split from the keep and form the tower of Eredar in the east. The first archeons are trained to keep a watch on the powers of mages.
  • 5054 Uthgard begins its war to control Atheles by invading Tiren(The Great War, The Aradan War)
  • 5057 Small border skirmishes between the Ishian Empire and Endamas begin.
  • 5059 The Ishian Empire begins invading the Westlands.
  • 5062 Uthgard defeats the Mages of the Tower. Eredar is sacked and left empty.
  • 5069 Olaekin Baleband, now known as the Warlock-King, defeats a large force of the Aradan Army and claims part of its kingdom.
  • 5073 The Ishian Empire, worn down by years of war, pulls their troops back and fortifies their borders. The elves stop their war, the high elves retreat into their forest and some of the grey elves and wood elves that are left lend their aid to Seladar (capital of the Aradan Kingdom).
  • 5075 The Warlock-king and his armies march on Seladar itself. The march to the capital sees use of horrific destructive magic, scarring the land and leaving it ruined.
  • 5082 Seladar is destroyed. The city is evacuated. Aeerumar Aradan, last king of Seladar is slain by one of his advisors, Caroth. Uthgard uses an artifact to open a rift from the battlefield into the heart of the city, ensuring victory. Myth: The Aradan king’s newlywed wife and his son are found dead in the burning castle. Truth: The queen and her kids were evacuated from the city before the battle and went into hiding.
  • 5086 War on the West is declared by the Warlock King and his kingdom Uthgard.
  • 5087 Bordon repels Uthgard’s forces.
  • 5090 Invasion of Norhan (Northlands) almost reaches Seahaven and is repelled. Uthgard retreats and there is an uneasy peace for years.
  • 5132 Second invasion to the West by Uthgard. Seahaven and Bordon, with the help of the Ishian Empire, push back the forces of Uthgard. Uthgard uses devastating magic again, ruining more of the Eastlands. In a massive final battle, Uthgard is defeated and the Warlock King is slain. During the culmination of the battle, the Disappearance happens.

Learn more about the History of Atheles at the Dark Return.