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I'm writing a campaign and I'm a big fan of history and I want to write a history of my campaign's world.

The problem is, I have no idea how to do this.

I am aware that I should bullet point wars and things of the sort as well as the destruction of different societies and specific eras in history.

I looked at the DMG and I couldn't find any answers, nor did 2 hours of scouring google find what I was looking for. A large reason why nothing helped is that in D&D magic exists and there's not a lot of good examples in timeline structures are based on a fantasy setting.

In what order would the normal progression of eras and advancements in technology impact a fantasy world?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related on worldbuilding: How do you layer history? Disclaimer: Shameless self promotion. \$\endgroup\$ – JohnP Jan 10 at 20:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm going to admit: I'm a little flummoxed by this question. On the one hand, it seems like expertise-based questions should be able to do a good job answering it. On the other hand, the answers that've come in and my own first thoughts on answers ("play a game of microscope," "play how to build a dungeon at the world-level", &c.) make it really seem like a shopping question. Experienced users, please weigh in: how do we keep this from becoming a poll/survey and instead help it become a valuable resource? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 12 at 16:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ If there is a meta question or a chat room to discuss this, please someone link it, I'm very interested. \$\endgroup\$ – ammut Jan 13 at 8:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Relevant: the original GSBS blog post and this Q&A on "shopping" and this Q&A on GSBS. I feel like this question asks about a non-trivial subject, which makes it hard to drop a "in my opinion, ..." answer without backup, which really is what the whole GSBS thing wants to prevent. It should probably ask more clearly "how have you successfully done this before?" and not "tool recommendations," which would kinda be shopping. \$\endgroup\$ – ammut Jan 13 at 9:13
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There is a 2e accessory book called the Worldbuilder's Guidebook, that has a chapter on mythology and history. It suggests going through the initial myths, such as:

  • Creation myths - How the world was created, what made it form and shape, etc
  • Divine myths - What gods are there? Were there gods that came before?
  • Sagas - Who are the historical heroes? What did they do to become heroes?
  • Natural disasters - Were there any earth shaking changes? Meteors, volcanoes?

After that, it starts breaking it down into history, such as far reaching cataclysmic conflicts (WW I, II), longstanding kingdoms that either fell or not (Rome), and things of that nature. It also gives random tables to determine events, and ways to structure the timeline.

On a more modern note, if you have read through the Terry Brooks pantheon of novels, they are all really centered on Earth, and it's morphing from magic to technology and back again, might be worth reading through various synopses if you aren't familiar with the series.

One of the things that I found was asking myself questions about why a certain event may or may not occur really helped. Such as, if you have magic, why would you invent a technological solution? Well, because magic is failing there. Why is magic failing there? Because of XYZ? Why XYZ? and so on. This worked when I was detailing a world history for a campaign a while back.

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I would like to suggest, "Read the diaries of Tolkien?" He did exactly that, from the ground up, including languages. However, I suspect you really don't need to go to that extent.

The place to start is small. Start with something you can focus on. Start with the key plot points that affect the game you're going to play.

Is it focused on a city? Then work on the history of that city.

Is it focused on a BBEG that the party will inevitably come up against? Focus on their history.

Is it focused on some long lost MacGuffin? Focus on that.

You can then fill out the fringes of the backstory as you go. How much detail you go into really depends on how much time you want to dedicate to it. If you were to tell the history of Earth, for 99% of the time you wouldn't even be able to mention humanity.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Good first answer! \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 11 at 22:15

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