Time of Troubles (Forgotten Realms)
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The Time of Troubles, also known as the Arrival, Godswar, and Avatar Crisis, is a fictional time period in the chronology of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role playing game. Taking place during the Year of Shadows, 1358 DR, the Time of Troubles was a cataclysmic period during which the gods of Faerûn were forced to walk the earth in their mortal avatar forms. However, unlike when a god usually sends an avatar and its true form resides usually on one of the Outer Planes, the gods were all demoted and this was the only form they had at the time, making them very vulnerable. Several major deities died during the Time of Troubles, and a handful of mortals rose to divinity.
On the fictional world of Toril, the planet on which the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy setting The Forgotten Realms is based, The Time of Troubles was precipitated by an attempt by two of the settings' deities, the gods Bane and Myrkul, to steal the Tablets of Fate from the overgod Ao. The tablets were created by Ao and delineated the areas of responsibilities given to each deity: his or her "portfolio" over which each of the gods of the Forgotten Realms have domain. Angry with the gods for their habitual pursuit of power and negligence toward their mortal faithful, the theft of the Tablets resulted in Ao banishing all of the gods save Helm (selected to protect the gates to the heavens) to take on avatars and live as mortals on Toril. The novels covering this event and subsequent game products take place almost exclusively on the western continent of Faerûn.
The immediate effects of this banishment were threefold. First, divine magic (spells granted to clerics by their patron deities) ceased to function altogether unless the cleric was within one mile of their deity's avatar. Second, arcane magic (a force channeled from The Weave by wizards and sorcerers) ceased to be regulated by its steward, Mystra, and became dangerously unpredictable. Third, the characteristically immortal and aloof deities were now vulnerable (though devastatingly powerful) and dwelling among the civilizations of Faerûn.
The Time of Troubles coincided with the release of the second edition of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game, and events in the story reflected changes in the game rules. For example, the demise of the assassin cults in Faerûn reflected the fact that the assassin player character class was discontinued in AD&D Second Edition. Similarly, in the comic-book series based on Forgotten Realms, a wizard notes that after the upheavals in magic caused by the Troubles, some of his spells had changed in power and effect; and indeed, the game rules for those same spells had been revised.
Deaths, ascensions, and resurrections
The Time of Troubles was a time of significant turnover among the gods of the Faerûnian Pantheon. Several deities were "destroyed" during this period. The following are deities who were killed or incapacitated during the Time of Troubles:
- Bane, greater god of tyranny, strife, and hatred and one of the Dead Three gods, was slain in a battle with Elminster by the lingering essence of Mystra. He was revived by Myrkul and was slain again in a climactic battle with the demigod Torm in battle outside of Tantras.
- Bhaal, intermediate god of murder, was slain by the then-mortal Cyric with the sword Godsbane. However, Bhaal had foreseen his own death, and had populated Faerûn with his progeny, the Bhaalspawn, in a bid to resurrect himself, as explored in the Baldur's Gate series.
- Gilgeam, demigod and king of Unther, was slain by Tiamat shortly after the Time of Troubles.
- Ibrandul, a lesser god of caverns, was destroyed by Shar, who still masquerades as the dead deity.
- Leira, lesser goddess of deception and illusion, was slain by Cyric shortly after the Time of Troubles.
- Myrkul, greater god of the dead and another of the Dead Three, was killed in a duel with Midnight, a mortal woman wielding the powers of Mystra, in the skies over the city of Waterdeep.
- Mystra, greater goddess of magic and among the most powerful of the gods, was destroyed when she attempted to bypass Helm at the Celestial Staircase.
- Ramman, Untheric lesser god of war and storms, was slain by Hoar, but his portfolio was stolen by Anhur of the Mulhorandi pantheon.
- Tiamat's three-headed incarnation was slain by Gilgeam. Her essence was divided among three dragons, the red Tchazzar, the blue Gestaniius, and the green Skuthosiin. Tchazzar consumed the other two and was subsumed by Tiamat. The Dragon Queen then destroyed Gilgeam after the Godswar.
- Torm, demigod and patron deity of paladins, was annihilated by Bane with his dying breath. He was later resurrected by Ao because he died fulfilling the obligations of his portfolio.
- Waukeen, lesser goddess of wealth, attempted to reclaim her divinity during the Time of Troubles, but was imprisoned in the Argent Palace, enslaved to the demon prince Graz'zt.
- Zinzerena, a drow demigoddess of chaos and thievery, was slain by Lolth.
However, many of these deities have in some way circumvented their own destruction:
- After Bane's death, his portfolio was divided among the newly anointed god Cyric and Bane's own half-demonic son Iyachtu Xvim. Upon the death of one of the greatest forces of evil in existence, all of Faerûn breathed a sigh of relief; however, in 1372 DR, Bane was resurrected, destroying Iyachtu Xvim and reestablishing his church.
- Bhaal had already foreseen his own death, and had populated the world with scores of his own progeny in earlier years, each possessing a portion of his divine essence that could later be recovered to enable his resurrection. This master plan is the basis of the Baldur's Gate computer game series.
- Myrkul infused the sinister artifact the Crown of Horns with the remnants of his essence, and teleported it away. While its location is unknown, the semi-sentient artifact is presumably fomenting a plan for Myrkul's resurrection.
- Though Ao had decreed that none of the gods fallen during the Time of Troubles should be reinstated, a complex convergence of factors regarding Torm's death led the overgod to make a single exception in his case, resurrecting him and elevating him to the status of lesser god.
- After a decade of isolation from her followers, Waukeen was freed from her prison in 1371 DR by a band of adventurers, and has resumed her place in the heavens.
Furthermore, a selection of mortals were chosen by Lord Ao to ascend to the heavens to fill the void left by those deities who died:
- Cyric, a petty, sadistic mercenary, slew Bhaal with the sword Godsbane (actually the god Mask in disguise). After the end of the Time of Troubles, he was granted control of nearly all the portfolios of the Dead Three by Ao, making him briefly the most powerful of the gods.
- After her death, the goddess Mystra entrusted her essence with the young mage Midnight, who ascended after the Time of Troubles as the new Mystra.
- Kelemvor, a sullen adventurer and companion of Cyric and Mystra, seized the portfolio of death from Cyric in the Year of the Banner (1368 DR), 10 years after the Time of Troubles. He has since striven to change the horrifying image of death promoted by his predecessor.
Finally, Lord Ao lifted the barrier that prevented the Mulhorandi god-kings from reuniting with their divine selves on the Outer Planes. The physical incarnations of the Mulhorandi gods departed Faerun and left governance of the empire to mortal rulers under their guidance.
- Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (3rd edition), Ed Greenwood, Sean K Reynolds, Skip Williams, and Rob Heinsoo, Wizards of the Coast, 2001
- Siege of Darkness, R.A. Salvatore, TSR, 1994
- Forgotten Realms: Realms Roundtable at Wizards of the Coast.
- Faiths & Avatars, Julia Martin with Eric L. Boyd, TSR, 1996
- Shadowdale, Richard Awlinson, TSR, 1989
- Tantras, Richard Awlinson, TSR, 1989
- Powers & Pantheons, Eric L. Boyd, TSR, 1997
- Waterdeep, Richard Awlinson, TSR, 1989
- For Duty and Deity, Dale Donovan, TSR, 1998; available for free download at http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dnd/downloads
- Volo's Guide to All Things Magical, Ed Greenwood with Eric L. Boyd, 1996; available for free download at http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dnd/downloads
- Prince of Lies, James Lowder, TSR, 1993
- Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad, Troy Denning, TSR, 1998