Another feature of the campaign bible that really helps the GM more than anything is a timeline. This can be very challenging as you have to make educated guesses on when things occur in your world’s past. Things like war, famine, catastrophes, worldly achievements, and political movements all fall into your timeline, but it can’t all be done in a few decades of history. Laying out a timeline helps you give life into your world, but it also gives you a better structure when building. If there really is no rhyme or reason behind your decisions as you create the world, you may find the entire project to be scatterbrained with ideas bouncing all over the place. Although there is variety in any world, there is also a level of order and structure that ties everything together. For example, adding a natural disaster event in the past can give reason to an important geological feature in the present. An assassination of a great king a century ago that wiped out a bloodline leads to a noble house ruling the kingdom today.
It also gives reason of how your world has risen or declined over the years. At a glance, you can see the possible golden years or the dark ages and what transpired that led to those changes. Although your world may not have cyclical events like in real life (things reoccurring over and over in history), it leaves the possibility of reoccurring themes if you are looking to add something to your campaign.
For my world of Zatra, I made a fairly big mistake: I made my history too brief. I began building my timeline in the year 0 when the world was created rather than basing the numbering like the Gregorian calendar. From here, I began to think in a chronological standpoint, filling in as the history began to be created. As I went, I would put random dates down that went in order and were separated with what I thought were enough dates. As it turned out, I ran out of ideas initially for the history. I wound up finishing the timeline with the present events only 1,200 years after the world was created. If compared to Earth’s history, the connection with the Middle Ages is familiar enough with the traditional fantasy setting that my timeline works in that regard. However, too many things happened in too short of time, and more things need to be added to breathe more life into the world.
These events in the history don’t have to be ground shattering either. A merciful and wise king dying of pneumonia isn’t important for the players to fit into the campaign, but it adds more character to the world and offers them opportunity for it to be significant in the future. They might stumble upon the king’s tomb after it was lost to a mighty rock slide centuries ago. History does tend to repeat itself although your world may not, but those moments can really become memorable when a player comments, “Isn’t this the tomb of King Gutaliehm IV who was cursed for betraying his wife to a demon? He went mad and traded his wife off so he would live for another 20 years!”
Here is my timeline that I created which has an extremely short world life (only 1,200 years). From here, I will go back and add quite a bit more, but more importantly I’ll change the dates to spread them out a bit and have a few thousand years, perhaps from the time of creation to the first civilized city being formed.
A Brief Timeline
0: God established by the Five Powers and Zatra is created by Him.
232: The first civilized city is formed as elves develop advancements in lifestyles quickest
258: General worldly civilization among the main races form, trading and politics are established
280: Five kingdoms are forged with Archdukes ruling each and one crowned king or queen over all.
372: Oceanic navigation is developed and fully exploring Zatra begins by many cultures
744: War breaks out among the five kingdoms after an assassination on the king
790: The original five kingdoms are reformed and political structure changed
810: The first nobility house takes over one of the five kingdoms
920: The speck of darkness that will become Koz comes into existence
1030: The first documented incident of the Touch is recorded
1037: [Koz communicates with his first follower and establishes his vision and demands]
1042: Touch has been deemed a worldly threat
[Nub Sumat is formed]
1044: The first Chamber is built by the Dwarves
1051: The world mysteriously darkens, the sun appearing for mere hours each day.
[Nub Sumat gains the ability to alter sunlight hours from Koz, darkening the world]
1089: Nub Sumat makes their presence known and spreads the praise of Koz.
1120: Catastrophic weather patterns form throughout the world without meaning.
[Koz grants Nub Sumat weather altering abilities, causing massive destruction]
1135: The last of the Chambers are built
1143: All communication or signs of God’s presence disappear
1154: Light- and anti-gravity pockets form throughout the world, causing unsuspecting victims to rise miles into the air and die.
[The dark god nearly reaches pinnacle, granting minor gravity alterations to Nub Sumat]
1178: Several Chambers are discovered by champions of Nub Sumat and are breached
1199 (Present Year): People experience periodic time shifts throughout the world
[Minor time alterations are granted to Nub Sumat, Wild Magic occurs]
Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with. Thanks for stopping by.