D&D Ancient History, Part IV

This is the fourth (and probably final) part of Age Before Ages: D&D Ancient History.

Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition breaks some continuity with the old Greyhawk-based history and takes its own setting. Nevertheless, the broad strokes of pre-history are the same. The gods fought with primordial beings long before the time of men, and in the end the gods won. Mythical figures like the Miska the Wolf-Spider and the Wind Dukes of Aaqa still appear on the correct sides.

According to the 4th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide 2, the Wind Dukes were a group of seven angels who served Bahamut, and forged the Rod of Seven Parts with the assistance of one of Moradin’s exarchs. The rod hates all elementals (strange since in 3E the Wind Dukes were elementals), strongly hates primordials (a term which doesn’t exist in 3E), and defends immortals (including demons, such as Miska the Wolf-Spider).

This isn’t actually too far from the 3E myth. According to Dungeon’s Age of Worms series, armies of evil elementals fought on the side of Chaos at the Battle of Pesh, including the earth elemental prince Ogrémoch. One hypothesis is that the oldest gods already existed at this time, and several fought on the side of Law, in which case it’s likely that the Moradin, Bahamut and a group of Wind Dukes collaborated in secret on the construction and deployment of the Rod of Law.

It’s feasible then that the Rod has a mild hatred of elementals, who mainly took the side of Chaos, and is somewhat protective of immortals, who aided its creation. It devotes itself to destroying the remaining primordials, whose number may include most of the surviving leaders from the side of Chaos. Although the Rod should hate demons, perhaps it has a strange tolerance of the tanar’ri, who overthrew the primordial obyriths after the battle, and thus in the grand scale of things tilted the balance of power against Chaos.

On the surface, it’s a little confusing that the Wind Dukes, who are air elemental creatures, would create a weapon that hates elementals. One possible answer is that the Wind Dukes were in fact created by the gods, in a time before any mortals existed whose souls could be forged into new beings; instead, they used elemental air to create intelligent beings to fight on the side of Law. This would strengthen the idea that the early conflict of Law versus Chaos was closely linked to the conflict between Gods and Primordials.

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D&D Ancient History, Part III

This is the third part of last Friday’s post, Age Before Ages: D&D Ancient History.

Age of Mortals

The first mortal was created by accident when Piscaethces, a massive Far Realm creature perhaps related to the Sleeping Ones, brushed against the prime material plane, creating the first monsterous aquatic aboleth. As they have perfect genetic memory, all aboleths remember this event.

Over millions of years the aboleths came to dominate the material plane, learning the first magic and creating creatures - the oozes, at first, and later the first humanoids, who they created as slaves. Precisely who created what race is unclear, but the gods found that mortal faith increased their power. In exchange, they freed the humanoids from aboleth control.

The mortals were also valuable to the primordial creatures for their souls, which the baernaloths used to build into the evil yugoloths, and the obyriths to create the first demons, the tanar’ri. The first tanar’ri, Demogorgon, was forged from the primal fears of the first mortal souls. The tanar’ri became numerous, and overthrew most of the obyriths before turning against Asmodeus’ devils, whose numbers included deities’ servants turned traitor for the promise of power.

The Age before Ages concluded at the Battle of Pesh, a colossal battle between law and chaos. On the side of Law were the Wind Dukes of Aaqa, an air elemental race whose empire spanned many worlds, while Chaos included demons and evil elder elementals led by an obyrith called the Queen of Chaos. The result was a stalemate: the Wind Dukes destroyed or banished the most powerful demons, but lost too many of their number to continue the battle of law against chaos.

Age of Men

With the primordials weakened and the gods reinforced by exponentially increasing numbers of mortal worshippers, the era of humanoids and their chosen deities began.

In the millennia after the Battle of Pesh, humans and the other races created civilization and have learned the use of magic. The demons and devils continue to fight each other in what has become termed the Blood War, although few are ancient enough to remember why it started.

The Wind Dukes never recovered their losses.

Age of Worms

Doomsayers speak of the end times, an era of destruction known as the Age of Worms. Servants of mad cults work to hurry this along. Neither the deities nor the remaining primordial evils want this to happen any time soon, since both benefit from the continuing growth of the human race.

D&D Ancient History, Part II

This is the second part of Friday’s post, Age Before Ages: D&D Ancient History.

Age of Primal Forces

The multiverse was created by the Sleeping Ones, so called by the kuo-toa because they promptly left for a billion year nap. The elemental planes formed - Fire, Air, Earth, Water. According to some, the planes form four sides of a cube, with Positive and Negative at the top and bottom and quasi-planes at the edges where two planes meet.

Primal concepts like law and order warred over this creation for millions of years before spawning the first immortal creatures, living embodiments of primal forces. Evil created the baernaloths, chaos the obyriths, and law created the Twin Serpents Ahriman and Jazirian, of whom Ahriman fell from grace to become Asmodeus, the first devil.

Several other ancient entities are thought to have existed in this era. The Ancient Brethren are a group who may include the Lady of Pain, who rules the city of Sigil at the centre of the multiverse and may be a primordial agent of Law, and the Serpent, an entity who is the embodiment of magic and it is claimed spoke directly to the archlich Vecna. The draedens are terrifying, massive descendants the Sleeping Ones, one of whom slept while the Abyss formed around him.

Age of Gods

Another ancient entity, called by some the powers of creation, sacrificed itself to bring the first gods into being and give order and meaning to the multiverse. The prime material plane was created out of the substance of the elemental planes. The outer planes came into being, and the gods claimed them as their domain, although some say the Outer Planes were first conquered by the Wind Dukes and the forces of Chaos, and the gods didn’t take the Outer Planes until after the fall of these two planar empires.

After such an act of creation, the being that created the gods became a force of destruction as if to maintain the balance. Known as Atropos, it is a decaying, disembodied head as large as a small moon, floating through the cosmos and populated by countless undead and bringing destruction to the worlds it visits.

The gods entered the fight to contest the form of the multiverse, but came into conflict with the primordials already there and began to suffer losses. At least one deity was slain outright, and the gods had insufficient power to stand against the primeval forces of the cosmos.

Age Before Ages: D&D Ancient History

Greyhawk Wiki at Canonfire is a repository of information on the Greyhawk setting, and by extension, on D&D tradition and canon. I’d like to showcase a particularly interesting group of articles detailing the D&D world’s pre-history, the Age before Ages.

Sages divide history into five eras. In the first Age, the multiverse came into being and beings of law and chaos, good and evil warred for millions of years. In the second Age, the Material Plane was formed and the first gods came into being.

In the third Age, the aquatic aboleth race was created by divine accident, who went on to master magic and create many creatures including the first humanoids. This Age culminated in a massive battle between Law and Chaos, crippling the ancient powers. These three eras together are called the Age before Ages.

In the following Age, humans and other species became numerous and human civilization began. This is the current era, and is predicted to end one day with the Age of Worms, where all life will be destroyed.

Over the next week or so I’m going to go into a little more detail on each of these and fill in the gaps. Look out for the next part on Monday.

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