Dragonlance is an immense series of fantasy novels, with over 190 novels printed, and is accompanied by a supplemental campaign setting in the Dungeons & Dragons style. The first Dragonlance novel was published in 1984. It was originally created by Laura and Tracy Hickman while driving in their car on the way to TSR, Inc. for a job application. At TSR, Tracy met his future writing partner Margaret Weis, and they gathered a group of associates to play the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The adventures during that game became a series of gaming modules that spawned Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the first novel in the Chronicles Trilogy, a core element of Dragonlance. The majority of the novels take place in the various regions of Ansalon, a small continent, though some have taken place on the lesser known continent of Taladas northeast of Ansalon. The continent to the northwest of Ansalon, Adlatum, has yet to be used in novels. It has however been mentioned in three gaming products.
The series was originally published by TSR, Inc. during the early-to-mid-1980s as a supplement to their Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game products. It is currently published by Wizards of the Coast (WotC), which purchased TSR in 1997. 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. On April 23, 2007, Weis announced that no renewal with Wizards of the Coast was reached and that Dragonlance RPG game supplements and accessories would only be released through the end of the year when the license reverts back to Wizards of the Coast.
The world of Dragonlance was the first fictional world to be professionally produced as a role-playing game world with product tie-ins (novels, role-playing modules, figurines, etc.) during its release. Before Dragonlance, fictional role-playing worlds evolved from the amateur creations of the games' players (the most notable example being the Greyhawk campaign setting), or from previously existing fictional settings (I.C.E's MERP) or campaign settings based in the real world. The success of the Dragonlance series encouraged role-playing game producers to invent and market additional fictional game worlds, such as the Ravenloft game world.
The central books of the Dragonlance series were written by the authoring team of Margaret Weis and Tracy 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.
For most of Dragonlance's history, the "main storyline" referred to the books that were set in the world's "present" and moved events forward.
The series has inspired different works outside literature including "Wishmaster," a song by Nightwish based partially on the relationship between Raistlin and Dalamar as a master and apprentice. The Swedish metal band Lake of Tears also recorded a song called "Raistlin and the Rose" in their 1997 album "Crimson Cosmos," while the German group Blind Guardian wrote "The Soulforged," another song inspired by Raistlin's story, which appeared in the band's 2002 album "A Night At the Opera."
The history of the world of Krynn, and thus the settings for both the novels and gaming supplements, is roughly split into six separate ages.
This was the period of time of great creative forces. The gods themselves are born and gather together. The world of Krynn is forged. Spirits are born and the gods fight two great wars (the All-Dragons War and All-Saints War) over who gets to control them. The four great races (Dragon, Ogre, Elf, and Human) are created and begin to populate the world.
No books are set entirely in this time, although many reference this age through mythology, legend, or flashback (in the case of the gods themselves).
The second age was an age of growth of civilization of all four great races. While initially the races were separate, as their civilizations expanded, conflict increased. The power of the Ogre empires overpowered and enslaved many Elves and Humans. However, the Ogre empires eroded from within, and eventually collapsed, allowing the Elves to band together and begin their own great civilization.
While a number of books are set in part within the Age of Dreams, few are entirely held within its time frame.
An age of empire building, war, peace, magic, and prosperity, the Age of Light encompassed many things. A myriad of new races appear on Krynn, including Gnomes, Minotaurs, and after the Greygem is set loose upon the world; Kender and Dwarves. Great empires of Elves, Humans, and Dwarves flourish. Wizards band together to create the Towers of High Sorcery. Three great wars between the dragons and their minions are fought. At the end of the third war, the goddess Takhisis is banished to the Abyss.
A wide variety of books and stories are set entirely or in part within the Age of Light.
Following the Third Dragon War, Istar rapidly becomes the most powerful empire as the lines between the priests of Paladine and the rulers of Istar become more and more blurred. With the backing of powerful armies, more and more edicts are enacted to control and limit anyone who does not fully agree with and obey Istar. Two Towers of High Sorcery are destroyed, and another two are abandoned. Eventually the Kingpriest of Istar demands to be made into a god. In punishment, the gods destroy Istar in what became called the Cataclysm before withdrawing from Krynn.
The Cataclysm starts with the destruction and obliteration of Istar. The forces required to sink the empire into the ocean change nearly every feature of Krynn's surface. Mountains fall apart, plains form mountains, massive lakes form, seas recede, hills become islands, volcanos form overnight.
Like the Age of Light, a wide variety of books take place, at least in part, during the Age of Might, especially during the last days before the Cataclysm. A substantial portion of the Legends Trilogy takes place during this time period.
Following the Cataclysm, Krynn slumped into a more than 300 year depression. Without the guidance and assistance of the gods, a variety of wars break out as the world is carved into a myriad of small countries. Takhisis begins to bring her long-term plans together to re-enter the world of Krynn, which results in the War of the Lance. During this war, mortals are re-united with the gods.
Shortly after the war ends, the great god Chaos is accidentally freed and attempts to destroy the world. This war is also often referred to as the Second Cataclysm, as it too changes much of the face of Krynn, although not to the degree of the first Cataclysm. In a last desperate act, Takhisis secrets away the world while every other gods' attention is focused on the battle with Chaos.
By far, the widest number of books published have been during the age of Despair, mostly during the time around the War of the Lance. This was also the first age that was introduced in adventures and supplements to the Dungeons & Dragons game. The entirety of the Chronicles Trilogy and much of the Legends Trilogy takes place in this Age.
For nearly 40 years, Takhisis rests and rebuilds her strength, secure in the knowledge of being the only god. Mortals, on the other hand, turn to wild magic, including the magic within themselves, and many discover they can live just fine without any gods. Eventually, Takhisis makes another bid at total world domination, but is eventually discovered by the other gods. In punishment, she is stripped of her godhood, and to maintain the balance, Paladine voluntarily relinquishes his own godhood as well.
It is soon discovered that Mina, the one time herald of Takhisis in her guise as the One god, was a god herself. She eventually becomes the Goddess of Tears, and is the first new god to join the pantheon since the Age of Starbirth.
Like the previous two ages, the Age of Mortals has a large number of stories and novels written in it. Many of the new and upcoming novels are set in this time period.
The main storyline of the original Dragonlance series has been written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, with multiple books written by several authors including the aforementioned ones covering different years in between and sometimes during the main events.
These books are considered to be the core Dragonlance books, although other books may contradict them. In particular, The Meetings Sextet and the Preludes novels contain many inconsistencies with regard to the original trilogy. Nancy Varian Berberick, a Dragonlance author, explained that authors had to work with the written novels and gaming modules, which accounted for some continuity issues. An example of these problems can be found in the Dragons of a New Age trilogy by Jean Rabe, which was written before the War of Souls trilogy.
When Advanced Dungeons & Dragons changed to its 2nd edition, the Dragonlance campaign setting changed with it. However in the 1990s, Dragonlance changed over to use the new SAGA System.
When the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons came out, Dragonlance was again represented by a new sourcebook (Dragonlance Campaign Setting), although no new adventures were publish by Wizards of the Coast. Wizards of the Coast also turned over all responsibility for maintaining the Dragonlance setting in 3rd edition to Margaret Weis's home company Sovereign Press.
In 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons, each campaign setting is receiving an entire year of focus, with 2010 being set aside for Dragonlance.
In 2006, Brilliance Audio released an unabridged version of Dragons of the Dwarven Depths on audio CD.