The original Dragonlance logo
|Designer(s)||Margaret Weis and Laura and Tracy Hickman|
|Media type||Novels, game accessories, film, audiobooks|
Dragonlance is a shared universe created by Laura and Tracy Hickman, and expanded by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis under the direction of TSR, Inc. into a series of fantasy novels. The Hickmans conceived Dragonlance while driving in their car on the way to TSR for a job interview. At TSR Tracy Hickman met Margaret Weis, his future writing partner, and they gathered a group of associates to play the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The adventures during that game inspired a series of gaming modules, a series of novels, licensed products such as board games, and lead miniature figures.
In 1984, TSR published the first Dragonlance novel, Dragons of Autumn Twilight. It began the Chronicles trilogy, a core element of the Dragonlance world. While the authoring team of Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis wrote the setting's central books, numerous other authors contributed novels and short stories to the setting. Over 190 novels have used the Dragonlance setting, and have been accompanied by supplemental Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting material for over a decade. In 1997, Wizards of the Coast LLC purchased TSR, and licensed Dragonlance to Sovereign Press, Inc in 2001 to produce game materials; this licensing agreement expired in 2007.
The fictional Dragonlance world of Krynn contains numerous characters, an extensive timeline, and a detailed geography. The history of Krynn consists of five ages. The novels and related game products are primarily set in the fourth age, The Age of Despair. Since February 2009, the fifth age, the Age of Mortals, has been used. The Heroes of the Lance, created by Weis and Hickman, are the popular protagonists of the Chronicles trilogy. Along with D&D's world of the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance is one of the most popular shared worlds in fiction.
Dragonlance is set on the world of Krynn. The majority of the novels take place in the various regions of Ansalon, a small continent, though some have taken place on the continent of Taladas, located northeast of Ansalon. The world's major gods are the High God and his children: good Paladine, neutral Gilean, and evil Takhisis. The gods are opposed by Chaos, who seeks to destroy Krynn. Depending on the time period, the evil chromatic and the good metallic dragons are rare or plentiful. Humans are Krynn's most common humanoid race, but elves, dwarves, kender, gnomes, and minotaurs occupy the world as well. Clerics derive magical powers from their gods, and wizards derive their power from the three moon gods, Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari. Hickman had previously served as a Mormon missionary in Java for two years, and uses Indonesian in Dragonlance spells. During Krynn's various wars, armies of draconians are used as troops. Draconians are created by corrupting a dragon egg, thereby creating a reptilian humanoid. The eggs of good dragons create evil draconians, and vice versa.
The history of the world of Krynn, and thus the settings for both the novels and gaming supplements, is roughly split into five separate ages. The first age is the time of creation, when the gods are born and Krynn is formed. The Age of Dreams, the second age, is marked by the rapid growth of the world's first great civilizations and the appearance of myriad new races. This era is also marked by three great wars between dragons and their minions. Following the Third Dragon War, in the Age of Might, the Cataclysm obliterates the great empire of Istar and changes almost the entire surface of Krynn. A three-hundred year depression follows this event, in what is called the Age of Despair. This period also marks the War of the Lance. When Dragonlance was first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons, events such as the Lost Wars happened during The Age of Despair.
Dragonlances are weapons first created in the Third Dragon War, designed with the purpose of killing evil dragons, and are the only weapons with which mortals can kill dragons. Dragonlances have this power because of the way in which they are created, which requires the use of "two god-blessed artifacts". The weapons clearly draw upon Christian iconography, as the two mythical figures shown defeating dragons, Archangel Michael and Saint George, are often portrayed wielding lances to do so.
Dragonlances are rare and not commonly traded. There are lesser dragonlances, which are made when only one of the artifacts is used to create them, and greater dragonlances, which are made when both artifacts are used to make them. Greater dragonlances are blessed with the power of Good, unlike lesser dragonlances.
The Heroes of the Lance are the protagonists of the Chronicles trilogy, the first series of Dragonlance books. They were created by Weis and Hickman, then fleshed out as player characters in gaming sessions of Dungeons & Dragons at Hickman's apartment. One player at this initial gaming session was game designer Terry Phillips, who was playing as Raistlin. According to Hickman in the foreword to The Soulforge, "[we] were just settling in to the game when I turned to my good friend Terry Phillips and asked what his character was doing. Terry spoke...and the world of Krynn was forever changed. His rasping voice, his sarcasm and bitterness all masking an arrogance and power that never needed to be stated suddenly were real. Everyone in the room was both transfixed and terrified. To this day Margaret [Weis] swears that Terry wore the black robes to the party that night."
Several other Heroes of the Lance were played by various people. Authors Gary and Janet Pack played the half-elf Tanis Half-Elven and the kender Tasslehoff Burrfoot, respectively. Author Douglas Niles played the dwarf Flint Fireforge. TSR employee Harold Johnson played the Solamnic knight Sturm Brightblade. The rest of the Heroes are the barbarians Goldmoon and Riverwind, elf Laurana Kanan, and humans Caramon Majere (Raistlin's brother) and Tika Waylan. Weis played Fizban the Fabulous.
In the beginning, Margaret Weis had problems depicting Tanis Half-Elven in the novels. Tracy Hickman finally told her "He's James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise." After that explanation, Margaret had no more difficulty writing about Tanis. Other noteworthy antagonists, and sometimes protagonists, are the Death Knight Lord Soth and Kitiara Uth Matar, the half-sister of Raistlin and Caramon, and leader of one of the Dragonarmies of Ansalon. According to Hickman, Lord Soth is the most unpredictable character to write about, saying "Every time that character made an appearance in one of our books he would try to run off with the story."
Hickman developed his world creation technique by writing and self-publishing with his wife Laura the adventure modules Rahasia (1979) and Pharaoh (1980), and writing TSR's Ravenloft module (1983). He was unemployed in 1982, and TSR offered him a job based on his submission of several modules. That year, while driving from Utah to Wisconsin to start a job with TSR, Hickman and his wife created the Dragonlance universe concept. During the trip, Hickman and his wife discussed two ideas they had had for several years: an entire world used to support a storyline, and a world dominated by dragons.
Their ideas were well received by TSR, whose marketing department felt they had enough dungeons, but not enough dragons. Hickman suggested a series of twelve modules, each featuring a different dragon. TSR employee Harold Johnson suggested that Hickman should try to get additional support from other TSR staff members and, after a period of months, Hickman had the support of Jeff Grubb, Larry Elmore, Roger Moore, Doug Niles, Michael Williams, and others with whom they discussed ideas for the project. Meanwhile, Weis was editing and writing various Endless Quest books for TSR. The Dragonlance group decided that novels should accompany the game modules; TSR reluctantly agreed and hired a writer. Hickman became the design coordinator for Project Overlord, the cover name for what would later be known as the Dragonlance saga.
TSR decided to create a franchise, including modules, board games, lead figures, and—for the first time—novels. Weis had been hired as an editor; with Hickman, she began working with the author hired to write the novels. They weren't satisfied with the author, and decided they should be the ones to write the books. They collaborated over a weekend, writing the prologue for the first five chapters of the first novel, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, based on the module Dragons of Despair. TSR liked their treatment and gave them the assignment, firing the author. After two years of development, TSR released Dragons of Autumn Twilight as a supplement to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game. TSR had doubts about the finished novel's sales potential, and attempted to order thirty thousand copies, ultimately ordering the minimum print run of fifty thousand. The success of the novel prompted TSR to publish more copies to meet demand. Dragonlance eventually received ancillary products such as novels, calendars, computer games, and books of artwork.
In the mid to late 1980s, a rift developed between Weis and Hickman, and TSR. The pair were feeling under-appreciated by the company, and when TSR turned down their Darksword series of novels, they went to Bantam Books. Bantam made them an offer, which they accepted, and they stopped writing Dragonlance novels for TSR. They returned to write Dragons of Summer Flame for TSR in 1995, thinking it would be their final Dragonlance novel. At the time, Dragonlance gaming had been converted to the SAGA System, with limited success, and that, combined with TSR's general financial troubles, put the setting's future in doubt. Wizards of the Coast bought the troubled TSR in 1997, and Weis and Hickman then proposed the War of Souls trilogy, which was published in 2000–2002. All three novels made the New York Times bestseller list, and the setting was commercially revitalized. By 1998, the original Dragonlance trilogy had sold well over three million copies worldwide and spawned dozens of sequels. The central books of the Dragonlance series were written by the authoring team of Weis and Hickman; however, many other writers have made contributions, including Richard A. Knaak, Douglas Niles, Roger E. Moore, Don Perrin, Jean Rabe, Paul B. Thompson, Tonya C. Cook, Michael Williams, Nancy Varian Berberick, and Chris Pierson.
In 2001, Wizards of the Coast licensed Sovereign Press to publish further Dragonlance game materials. This began with the newly revised Dragonlance Campaign Setting in 2003, which used the new Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition rules. On April 23, 2007, Weis announced Wizards of the Coast had not renewed Sovereign's license, and that Dragonlance RPG game supplements and accessories would only be released through the end of the year.
Dragonlance is one of the most popular shared worlds, worlds in which writers other than those that created them place adventures. The first Dragonlance trilogy, Chronicles, launched the Dungeons & Dragons line of novels, with many of its characters spun off into other novels. Along with Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance is TSR's most popular series of novels. According to The 1990s by Marc Oxoby, what is most notable about the series is that "what may at one time been considered disposable, escapist literature" found "unprecedented popularity" in the 1990s. All of the Dragonlance novels remained in print during the decade, turning Weis and Hickman into literary stars and boosting sales of their non-Dragonlance novels. Although the series was initially published in paperback, its success led to hardcover printings. The hardcover version of Dragons of Summer Flame had an "impressive" first printing of 200,000 books. Every Dragonlance novel by Weis and Hickman since 1995 has been released in hardcover, and some previous novels have been re-released in hardcover collector's editions. Dragonlance made TSR one of the most successful publishers of science fiction and fantasy in the 1990s.
By 2008, there were more than 190 novels in the Dragonlance franchise. Weis and Hickman's Dragonlance novels have made over twenty bestseller lists, with sales in excess of 22 million. The pair's novels have been translated into German, Japanese, Danish, Finnish, Spanish, French, Italian, Hebrew, Portuguese, Greek and Turkish and have sold well in the United States, Britain, and Australia.
Not all critics have praised Dragonlance and its creators. According to author Stephen Hunt, Wendy Bradley of Interzone magazine does not think highly of their work. Hunt feels that it is unusual for authors to receive such loathing among "fantasy's literary mafia", saying, "Behind every critic's scorn laden insult, there lays [sic] that unsaid thought at the end: 'But I could have written that!'" Visions of Wonder, edited by David G. Hartwell and Milton T. Wolf, and published by the Science Fiction Research Association, argues that Dragonlance is published under the "omnivore theory" of publishing. In this theory, the readership is made up of teenagers, and completely replaces itself every three to five years. This allows publishers to release subpar novels and still reach a small yet profitable audience.
The main storyline of the original Dragonlance series has been written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, with multiple books written by other authors, covering years between and sometimes during the main events.
- The Chronicles trilogy relates the events since the meeting of the Companions until the end of the War of the Lance and the defeat of the Dragon armies of Ansalon.
- The Legends trilogy covers the Blue Lady's War, as well as the past adventures of Raistlin and Caramon Majere, culminating in Raistlin's attempt to achieve godhood. The books feature time travel, and focus on events in Istar before the Cataclysm, as well as the ensuing Dwarfgate Wars.
- The Second Generation is a single compilation book which picks the most important tales from the Tales series and details the children of the Companions, all of whom become players in the later story. This book is considered to be part of the main storyline, as it must be read to understand the events that happened between the War of the Lance and the Chaos War. This novel develops characters that would later be seen in the War of Souls trilogy.
- Dragons of Summer Flame covers the Chaos War, also known as the Second Cataclysm. The gods and mortals join forces to defeat Chaos in his attempt to destroy Krynn. The war ends with the withdrawal of Chaos and the gods of Krynn in a divine agreement to keep the world safe.
- Dragons of a New Age describes the rise of the Dragon Overlords and introduces the Fifth Age of Dragonlance. It leads into the War of Souls trilogy.
- The War of Souls trilogy begins as a strange storm courses through Krynn, heralding the War of Souls. The end of the war brings the return of the gods, Takhisis's death, and the departure of Paladine as head of the good gods in order to maintain the balance between Good and Evil.
- The Dark Disciple trilogy follows the death of Takhisis and the departure of Paladine, when the lesser gods strive to maintain dominance.
- The Lost Chronicles trilogy is a companion to the original Chronicles. Each book of the trilogy fills in sections of the story previously left untold. It tells the story surrounding the recovery of the Hammer of Kharas, how the Companions retrieve the dragon orb from Ice Wall, how Kitiara Uth Matar and Lord Soth became allies, and how Raistlin Majere took the Black Robes in Neraka.
TSR created Dragonlance as a campaign setting for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) roleplaying game in 1982, publishing the first of a series of modules, Dragons of Despair, in March 1984. They published the first world-spanning sourcebook, Dragonlance Adventures, in 1987. When AD&D was updated to the 2nd edition in 1989, the Dragonlance campaign setting was updated as well. However, in 1996, Dragonlance was converted to use the new SAGA System, which uses cards to determine the effects of actions, with the publication of the Dragonlance: Fifth Age roleplaying game. When the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons was released, Dragonlance was again updated with a new sourcebook (Dragonlance Campaign Setting), although no new adventures were published by Wizards of the Coast. Wizards of the Coast also turned over all responsibility for maintaining the Dragonlance setting in the 3rd edition to Margaret Weis's home company, Sovereign Press.
In 2008, Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, an animated movie based on the first Dragonlance book of the same name, was released direct-to-video. The animation was produced by Toonz Animation, and featured the voices of Lucy Lawless, Kiefer Sutherland, Michael Rosenbaum, and Michelle Trachtenberg. A number of video games are also set in the Dragonlance world: including Heroes of the Lance (1988), Dragons of Flame (1989), War of the Lance (1989), Dragonstrike (1990), Shadow Sorcerer (1991), Champions of Krynn (1990), Death Knights of Krynn (1991), and The Dark Queen of Krynn (1992).
The MUSH game DragonLance is based on Krynn during the final stage of the War of the Lance.
The series has inspired mention in music as well, including "Wishmaster", a song by Nightwish based partially on the master and apprentice relationship between Raistlin Majere and Dalamar. The Swedish metal band Lake of Tears also recorded a song called "Raistlin and the Rose" on their 1997 album Crimson Cosmos, while the German group Blind Guardian wrote "The Soulforged", another song inspired by Raistlin's story, which appeared on the band's 2002 album A Night at the Opera. Also Danish/American band Pyramaze recorded in their 2008 album Immortal song "Caramon's Poem". Another German metal band, Evertale, released The Chronicles Chapter I EP in 2008 and the full album Of Dragons And Elves in 2013 - both releases were composed entirely of songs inspired by and relating to Dragonlance.
In late 2011, Holysoft Studios Ltd. released the first part of a German audio adaption of the Chronicles Trilogy, with subsequent releases of the later trilogies being announced.
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