This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Six on 6th April 2022.
Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast.
Dragonlance as a setting is arguably the second third party setting for D&D that was ever created, depending on your position on Mystara. Either way, originally you started with Greyhawk, and Gary Gygax and his player group were responsible for most of the initial monsters and setting information that eventually formed D&D.
Then the Hickmans got involved. Some people argue they should be named the “godparents” of D&D, because while Gygax and his buddies did most of the work of creation and working out the mechanics, the Hickmans gave it that extra push that really got it to take off.
By 1982 Tracy Hickman and his wife had already made their mark on D&D. Although it wouldn’t be published for another year, their work in concepting and Tracy’s actual writing for creating Strahd von Zarovitch would result in one of the most iconic villains in D&D history. Between that and a few other modules Tracy had contributed to, TSR offered him a job when he found himself unemployed.
On the car ride from Utah to Wisconsin, Tracy and his wife spent the time conceiving of the world that would eventually become Dragonlance. They wanted an entirely new world to support an original storyline, rather than trying to shoehorn something else into Greyhawk. Also, and I can definitely get behind this part, they wanted the world in question to be dominated by dragons.
Note: the Dragonlance name hadn’t been finalized at this point, but we’re going to refer to the setting that way going forward just for clarity.
TSR latched onto the idea, thinking Dragonlance would make a good compliment to Greyhawk. Greyhawk was well known for covering the “dungeons” part of “Dungeons and Dragons”, but it was a little light on Dragons. Dragonlance had that part covered.
TSR advised Hickman to shop the idea around the company and soon he had a whole cadre of developers behind the project. Those developers immediately suggested that Dragonlance should be developed as a franchise. This was something TSR was already doing with Greyhawk at that point; beyond game modules, some board games were in development, and Gary Gygax was already working on the Dungeons and Dragons TV show. One of the main things they thought Dragonlance should feature was tie-in novels to familiarize people with the setting, since it was totally separate from Greyhawk.
TSR wasn’t as enthusiastic about the novels idea, but the group of developers made their case successfully and TSR hired a writer. It’s debatable whether TSR intentionally hired a sub-par author or not, but either way Tracy Hickman wasn’t terribly thrilled with the author’s initial output. It turned out, the editor working for TSR wasn’t thrilled with it either. That editor was one Margaret Weiss.
Wiess ended up talking to Hickman about the sub-par output of the author, and they decided they could do a better job. Over the course of a weekend, they wrote up a treatment and 5 initial chapters of what would eventually become Dragons of Autumn Twilight. TSR’s response to the treatment was to fire the author they’d originally hired and then give the job to Hickman and Weiss.
At that point Dragonlance was off and running. The first Dragonlance module came out in 1984, coinciding with the release of the First novel. The adventure module was in a series TSR called “Dragons of Despair”, which spanned 16 adventures released from 1984 through 1988. At the same time, Weiss and Hickman were churning out the Dragonlance novels, publishing the first two trilogies from 1984 through 1986.
That’s the first point when things started to get a little tense between TSR and the Dragonlance creators.
By 1987 or so, Dragonlance was starting to eclipse Greyhawk in popularity. The Dragonlance novels had easily passed a million copies sold, and TSR, who originally ordered minimal print releases for most of the novels, had ended up ordering second and third runs. Demand for modules and adventures set in Dragonlance had increased to match. Unfortunately not all of the leadership at TSR appreciated this. It isn’t confirmed by either side, but many people believe Gary Gygax was frustrated at Dragonlance’s popularity. Given he still retained a leadership position at TSR, it’s possible he tried to intentionally stall Dragonlance’s progress in an effort to bring Greyhawk back to the forefront. Then again, TSR was starting to show signs of the business and financial troubles that would eventually see its downfall, so it could simply have been issues with resource management.
Either way, Weiss and Hickman began to feel as though TSR wasn’t supporting them. After TSR rejected the next installment of Dragonlance’s novels (the Darksword series) and published the next set of Dragonlance modules in their SAGA roleplaying system rather than D&D, Weiss and Hickman decided to jump ship. They sold their next set of novels to Bantam publishing, and no longer consulted on the module development for game content.
While Weiss and Hickman continued to write novels, TSR continued on the path that eventually saw it bought by Wizards of the Coast. At that point everything gets messy. Upon acquiring D&D, Wizards immediately decided the game was trying to support too many different worlds, and Dragonlance was one of the ones that was dropped. However, they did recognize it had been one of the most profitable and popular settings from D&D, so they were open to 3rd party licensing.
Initially it looked like a fan effort coordinated online was going to produce material that would make its way into an official resource, but Margaret Weis had started her own publishing house, Sovereign Press, in 1998. Since the internet of the early 2000s was very much still a land of unregulated message boards and geocities websites, Wizards was much more comfortable giving an official license to an established publishing business than a group of internet fans. Sovereign Press got the go-ahead to license official Dragonlance material in 2002.
However, and those with good D&D history knowledge will have already clued into this, by 2002, the woes of 3rd edition were already prompting Wizards to work on 3.5. Rather than rush a Dragonlance book to publication in what was soon to be a defunct ruleset, Sovereign press decided to hold off and update their Dragonlance campaign book for 3.5. Because of that, Dragonlance was actually the first official setting guide published for edition 3.5. Wizards themselves wouldn’t follow up with their guide to Faerun until more than a year later.
With that solid start, Sovereign was able to put out a full 20 more Dragonlance resources for edition 3.5 from 2003 – 2007, and that was just the RPG materials. Since Sovereign had the license and novels don’t have to pay attention to rules updates, the publishing house was absolutely churning out novels set in Dragonlance. Weiss and Hickman’s books were still considered “core” Dragonlance stories and canon, but dozens of other authors were given leave to craft stories in the world. Unfortunately the oft-repeated mantra that “4th edition ruined everything” proved true for Dragonlance. Sovereign Press’s license to publish official dragonlance material for D&D expired in 2007 and was not renewed. The license to publish novels was still good through at least 2010, but that didn’t do anything for 4th edition. Official information is hard to come by due to the situation, but popular rumor is that Wizards intended to reboot dragonlance for 4th edition. They brought in a new author and designer to make Dragonlance “fit” with 4th edition, but allegedly when the author was informed that he wouldn’t be allowed to consult with Weiss or Hickman they walked away from the project. Any secondary effort was probably abandoned in the wake of Wizard’s decision to shift from 4th edition to 5th. That whole scenario created a drought of Dragonlance material after 2010, but to say the market was already flooded is an understatement. By this point, there are over 190 novels set in the Dragonlance universe, and nearly 50 resource books and adventures across 1st through 3rd editions. That’s aside from the massive amount of fan-made resources, many of which were overseen and even blessed by Tracy Hickman, who kept his finger on the pulse of the fans, particularly during the uncertainty after TSR was purchased.
As with settings like Eberron and to a lesser extent the Forgotten Realms, the fact that the original creators have been acknowledged and consulted throughout their product life means there is a decent amount of internal consistency with their lore. Weiss and/or Hickman have been connected to Dragonlance production, particularly in the case of the novels, since the beginning. Even when Sovereign Press took over it’s said one of their production people took a week and speed-read the (at the time) 90 novels that existed so they could get a handle on Dragonlance continuity and guide further development. Not that there aren’t contradictions and issues, but most of them are things related to specific character’s histories or details about one region or another doing things at a particular time. You don’t have things like prominent dragon gods suddenly disappearing for no reason.
Despite the stated intention for Dragonlance’s world to be dominated by dragons, they are not the ones ultimately in charge. The Krynn pantheon is based on the original D&D alignment grid. A High God drew the other gods into existence and then apparently peaced out. The four major gods are Paladine, god of good, Takhisis [Tah-KEY-Sis], god of evil and corruption, Gilean, god of balance, and the god of chaos, just called Chaos. Other than Chaos, all the other gods gathered a bunch of lesser gods around them to form the rest of the pantheon. It should be noted that while each god is devoted to their side, above all the whole pantheon is very much aware of and devoted to the idea of cosmic balance. One of the neutral gods that plays a major role in most of what follows is Reorx. He is the god of creation, later also of forging and the patron god of dwarves. After the gods were all sorted out, he started creating actual things by taking the essence of Chaos and molding it into solid, stable forms. After creating the actual world of Krynn, he then set about creating dragons. Upon their creation, Takhisis immediately grabbed a whole bunch of them and started teaching them how wonderful it was to be evil, thus birthing chromatic dragons. The good gods countered by supporting the development of the metallic dragons, and the two types of dragons got along like a world on fire. And I mean that literally; the gods all directly backed their respective cadre of dragons (except for the neutral gods that just sat back and recorded everything going on) until it got so bad they were worried about actually destroying the planet. So the gods pulled back. The good gods set up a place called the Hidden Vale, and the evil ones settled in a location called the Abyss.
Once there, the gods peaceably considered each other from afar and…no that’s not what happened at all. Off planet, they started noticing all the stars around Krynn were actual spirits of unformed potential, and each side started trying to gather as many as they could. This time the neutral gods got into it too, and the High God actually had to step in and make everyone stop it. They allowed each group of gods to gift the spirits with different aspects, and out of those the three original races of mortals were born on Krynn: humans, elves, and ogres. In commemoration of the event, the gods also formed three new gods to preside over magic: Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari, representing good, neutral, and evil respectively. Each of them decided to settle down in a moon around Krynn. At the same time the god of trickery, Hiddukel, got Reorx to craft an artifact that would memorialize the essence of neutrality. Reorx tried to put a bit of the essence of chaos in the artifact, but accidentally trapped the actual god Chaos in the gem instead. He wasn’t supposed to do that, so he decided the best course of action was to not tell anyone and instead give the gem to Lunitari to hide on her moon. She took the gem, but she and her sisters thought the amount of power it held would let the mortals on Krynn start to use magic, which would boost their own prestige. They started plotting to find a way to get the gem down to the surface.
That covers what in Krynnish history is called the “Age of Starbirth”, which encompasses prehistory. Actual history begins in 9000PC (in this case standing for Pre-cataclysm, which we’ll get to in a bit). For the first 3000 years or so of history, people are mostly just being people; the chromatic and metallic dragons are killing each other as often as they can manage, the elves are settling down in the trees, and the ogres are enslaving all the humans. Also, Reorx, not content with everything he’s done so far, takes a group of people under his wing and teaches them a lot of his skills around metalworking and creation. These people are called The Smiths.In 6000PC the ogres start leaning more into the idea of cruelty and evil, and that’s the edge that pushes their human slaves to revolt. By 5980 most humans have escaped slavery, and the ogre civilization is beginnning to fall apart. The ogre species is also deteriorating, losing their once beautiful appearance and starting to breed subraces such as giants and half-ogres. It’s not clear why the revolt of the slaves kicked off the physical changes in the ogres. Fast forward another thousand years and Reorx is getting annoyed at the Smiths. His chosen proteges are getting very full of themselves, so he curses them by turning them into gnomes. This is apparently the trigger Hiddukel has been waiting for. Once Reorx takes his attention away from the gnomes, Hiddukel, acting on a request from Lunitari, approaches the inventive gnomes and convinces them that there’s a powerful treasure to be found on the moon.
One gnome successfully built, and this is the actual name, a Self-Propelled Lunar Extension Ladder. And it worked because gnomes and D&D. Unfortunately, upon retrieving the artifact, which was the Greygem, they slipped on their way down. The Greygem by that point had gained sentience due to the god of chaos trapped within it, and when it impacted the surface of Krynn it “woke up”. It started tearing across the landscape and its chaotic influence warped a whole bunch of things on the surface. Notably, the gnomes who came looking for it were turned into kender and dwarves. It also created the sea elves (blue skinned, web-limbed variants of the originals), and a number of ogres were transmuted into minotaurs. Eventually, an individual blessed by the gods named Gargath trapped the gem, this time in a remote location where they were able to keep it contained for a couple millennia.
For the next 5000 years or so there are the usual issues of war and inter-species relations. The chromatic and metallic dragons fight several major wars, occasionally dragging other races in as proxies, and on multiple occasions come very close to killing each other into extinction. There are several times when there are only single breeding pairs of one or another kind of dragon left alive, until in desperation mages in the second dragon war cast a spell that literally obliterates all the chromatic dragons and releases wild magic into Krynn. That eliminates chromatic dragons from the planet for over 1500 years, and gives birth to sorcery.
At the same time, all the sapient races go to war with each other at least once. Dwarves and ogres both at times enslaved minotaurs, who broke free and formed their own nation. The elves, primarily a group called the Silvanesti, got dragged into a lot of dragon wars and then fought with the dwarves against some ornery humans from an empire called Ergoth. All of the magic around plus the introduction of wild magic gives rise to the Orders of Magic and the Tower of High Sorcery to get all the spellcasters organized.. Also the Kender are given their own country, presumably so they can get out of everyone’s hair and everyone knows exactly where to tell the dragons to firebomb. Ergoth’s wonderful foreign policy decisions created a rebellion, which the emperor tasked a knight named Solamnus to put down. That ended up with Solamnus leading the rebels to multiple victories and ending the rebellion by establishing the breakaway nation of Solamnia, so good job?
Solamnia’s breakaway basically dissolves the Ergoth empire, and the sister nation of Ishtar forms based around trade. Then Takhisis, missing her chromatic children, manages to secret away a bunch of chromatic eggs in the dwarven mines under the nation of Thoradin. Once they hatch, they severely outnumber the remaining metallic dragons, and with Takhisis’s direct support, the dragons, ogres, minotaurs, and others start overrunning the world, setting up the conditions for Takhisis herself to manifest on Krynn. Two things happen in parallel to stop this. The wizarding circles all agree that Takhisis manifesting would be a bad idea, so they create artifacts called dragon orbs. These orbs trap the essences of chromatic dragons but also allow powerful users to access knowledge the dragons possessed. This gave them a massive strategic edge once dragons were captured in the orbs.
The other thing that happened was a Solamnian Knight named Huma met a silver dragon named Heart. Heart disguised herself as a human named Gwyneth and tested Huma to prove that Huma followed the teachings of Paladine without fail. Once he passed, she revealed her true nature and taught Huma how to make the first dragonlances. Crafted out of so-called dragonmetal and requiring two magical artifacts to forge, the lances were capable of directly killing dragons, something mortals could not do otherwise unless they were magic users. The dragonlances not only decimated the chromatic dragon armies, but also incapacitated the aspect of Takhisis that manifested in the final battle. After losing, Takhisis withdrew from Krynn with all the remaining chromatic dragons. That ended what was called the Age of Dreams. So now we’re getting into the main Dragonlance stories, right? Well…
Okay Weiss and Hickman did what Tolkien did, and made up a whole bunch of major events that happened before their main story. Except what they didn’t do is put out a nice textbook to let everyone read up on what happened leading up to their story in 300 pages or so, and instead decided to let 50 different authors fill out the history of everything that happened before their books.
Anyway, after the end of the third dragon war, everyone tries to rebuild. Various old alliances are strained because of how much everyone lost during the war. The elves and dwarves start isolating themselves more from humans and each other, and the minotaurs and ogres have retreated so far that they’re only encountered if people try to hunt them down. Kender are still around though.
Over the next thousand years, the most successful rebuilding occurs around the nation of Istar. Since Solamnia was the major military powerhouse of the two large human nations, it took more of a beating during the war. Istar traded with everyone, and continually got richer and more powerful, but kept relying on Solamnia for defense against various threats such as roving minotaur hordes, ogre armies, and a major attack by undead. The various trade agreements and promises made between the two eventually resulted in Solamnia being totally dependent on Istar for everything domestic. It’s a vassal state in all but name. Eventually the leader of Istar starts calling themselves the kingpriest, and claims they have the divine favor of all the good and neutral gods of Krynn. This goes about as well as it always does when a political leader declares they have the mandate of the gods. Unfortunately in the short term the kingpriests gain massive popularity for things like abolishing slavery and avoiding assassination by the former slave owners.
It doesn’t take long (well, okay it takes about 200 years, but we’ve covered nine millennia in the last twenty minutes, so) but soon enough the kingpriests are throwing up red flags. There are at least two full blown denominational wars, and fewer and fewer priests are starting to question that the kingpriest is an agent of the gods, while at the same time they’re getting less and less power from the gods they claim to serve.
Istar basically exists at a level of “Christian Crusaders in the middle east” until 94 PC when they go full Spanish Inquisition. The Kingpriest issues an edict that certain races are evil and must be exterminated, including goblins and ogres. That doesn’t raise eyebrows until wizards and sorcerers are added to the list. Also they never did add kender, so this was obviously a farce from day one. By 6 PC, everything in Istar from birthing children to running businesses has to be approved by the priesthood and the Kingpriest has declared evil thoughts to be illegal. Of course, any thought contradicting him, as the representative of the gods, is inherently evil. Five years later the kingpriest is gathering all of his supporters in an effort to ascend to godhood. In the time leading up to the ritual, people notice priests and clerics of gods who seemed to still be adhering to the core tenets of their faith are vanishing. People initially think the kingpriest is taking them, but it turns out to be even worse. The gods actually moved their faithful priests out of Krynn magically because the gods had decided enough was enough. Before the kingpriest could ascend, the gods literally dropped a mountain on Istar. The entire country sinks into a newly formed sea, the continent it’s on is split, and the whole landscape is essentially reworked. That is the Cataclysm all the dates are based around and it ended the age of Might. Now we talk about the main people?
Now we talk about the main people. This next part covers the two main trilogies of Dragonlance, along with the bridging book, which are the ones Weiss and Hickman wrote to start this whole thing, so if you’re planning to read those in preparation for the D&D module, skip ahead to avoid spoilers.
When Istar was hit by the mountain, parts of its magical tower were thrown into the Abyss where Takhisis was hanging out. One of the foundation stones of the temple would work as an achor allowing her to reenter Krynn, so she had it moved to the surface through magical means. Unfortunately for her, before she could make use of it, some adventurer named Berem found it and removed a gem from it. She could still communicate to her followers with it and get chromatic dragons back to Krynn, but not herself. Still, she made quick work of the chromatic dragons’ return. First she had them steal all the metallic dragon eggs and hold them hostage to keep the metallic dragons out of the war she was planning. Then she secretly used those eggs to create armies of dragonkin.
After 150 years her followers still hadn’t found Berem but Takhisis decided to move forward anyway and starts what comes to be known as the War of the Lance. She formed five dragonarmies, one for each chromatic color, and sent them against the nations of Krynn. On the other side, the Knights of Solamnia, gnomes, dwarves, two elven nations, kender, and several groups of humans oppose the dragonarmies, though only some of them actually form a cooperative alliance. That proves disastrous for one of the elven nations, Silvanesti, when three dragonarmies surround it. The leader, Lorac Caladon, tries to broker a nonagression pact, but that lasts less than a year before the dragonarmies break it. Unknown to the dragonarmies, Silvanesti actually has one of the dragon orbs that ended the last dragon war. However, when Caladon tries to use it, he’s not powerful enough and loses control of the orb’s magic. The magic essentially explodes, decimating three of the dragonarmies (including causing the death of one of the generals when his own troops go mad and kill him), and devastating Silvanesti.
That stalls the dragonarmies for a bit while they recover. Meanwhile, Paladine the god wants to counteract the influence of his opposite number, so he manifests on Krynn as an old man named Fizban and gathers the group eventually known as the Heroes of the Lance: Knight of Solamnia Sturm Brightblade, Flint Fireforge the dwarf and dear friend to Tanis Half-elven the emo ranger. His emo-ness stems partly from Laurana Kanan, a full elf who grew up with him and told him she loved him when he was 10 or so and hasn’t given up. He for some reason ignores Goldmoon, the barbarian with the singing voice so good it literally causes riots. She later multiclasses into cleric, and with Tanis brooding she instead goes for Riverwind, the ranger who’s a bit racist but much less broody. Next up are the brothers Caramon and Raistlin Majere. Caramon is a fighter with a body modeled after any Greek hero you’d care to name, and his brother Raistlin is a frail wizard who pretty much originated the term “edgelord”.
And then there’s Tasslehoff. Tasslehoff is a kender. He’s arguably the kender, since he was everyone’s introduction to the race. Almost all the portrayals of kender everywhere are based on the Tasslehoff character.
Now if some of you are thinking “that’s a lot of stereotypical characters,” there are two reasons for that. First of all, D&D novels weren’t a thing before Dragonlance, so they weren’t stereotypical because they basically defined the stereotypes. Some people even argued that Drizz’t Do’Urden was just a reskinned Tannis half-elven when the Forgotten Realms books debuted. The second reason is that the Hickmans took a page from Gary Gygax and based a lot of the characters on the ones that their players used in home games. So yes, people were making broody rangers, flaky elf maidens, and fighters based off the Rock (although this was the 80s so more likely Arnold Schwarzenegger) since the beginning.
If you want full details on their adventures there are approximately 450,000 words on the subject collected into three novels, but with Fizban’s guidance, the heroes become embroiled in the war, tasked with recovering the dragon orbs that helped end the last one. They first visit Silvanesti, freeing Caladon from his corruption, and securing the dragon orb there. While trying to return the dragon orb to the good guys, they run across some angry elves who want the orb, but agree to let them borrow their healer. That introduces them to the silver dragon in disguise, Silvara.
Silvara is actually the sister of Heart, the silver dragon that fell in love with Huma and gave her life to help him defeat Takhisis in the last dragon war. Silvara ends up following the same path and helps the companions gather materials for and learn to forge new dragonlances. Meanwhile when the orb is brought to the leaders of the opposition forces, everyone starts fighting over it, so Tasslehoff decides the easiest solution is to just smash it.
*pause*Sorry, needed a moment there. Anyway, they still have the dragonlances so they go to fight an advancing army, where Tanis discovers that the other reason for his emo-ness, former adventuring partner Kitiara, is now in charge of one of the dragonarmies, which just does wonders for his mood and outlook. Acting on the wisdom of emo, he decides to kind of but not really join the dragonarmy Kitiara’s leading.
That first battle ends thanks to Laurana discovering another dragon orb and figuring out how to use it, prompting the good side to nominate her as general. Following that they discover what’s actually been happening to the metallic dragon eggs, getting the metallic dragons on their side. Fortunately Laurana’s actually decent at her new job. Long story short things start to go well for the good guys, defeating armies and taking out generals on the other side.
By this point the companions have also hooked up with Berem, though they don’t know who he is or why Takhisis wants him. Kitiara lures Laurana into a trap by telling her Tanis is dying and wants to see her as his last wish. All of that is a lie and she captures the general. Tanis reconnects with the companions, several of whom sneak into the stronghold where the dragonarmy leaders are meeting and planning to sacrifice Laurana. Raistlin, who had abandoned the rest of the companions months ago to do his own thing, also shows up, but is invisible. Tanis frees Laurana, the dragonarmy generals begin fighting for dominance, and Berem dies, restoring the Foundation stone, but Raistlin uses his magic to seal it so Takhisis is totally blocked off. Thirty years pass before one of the dragonarmy generals who was captured during the war gets released and starts forming the Knights of Takhisis. Tanis and Camaron find out and try to sound the alarm, but everyone’s too busy recovering from the last war and “hey aren’t you that guy that worked with the dragonarmies before?” Tanis’s emo intensifies. The Knights of Takhisis eventually begin their campaign and the only ones standing against them for the most part are the rebuilt Knights of Solamnia. Unfortunately, Paladine their patron god lends them no support, and the people in the know, including Raistlin, inform everyone that Paladine is actually on the side of the dark knights. The reasons for that become clear shortly.
See, the first thing the Knights of Takhisis did was raid an island where people called Irda lived. That island happened to be the location where the Greygem was stored. The Irda knew about the gem and knew it was amazingly powerful, but they didn’t know why. When the knights attacked, they decided to break it open.
The god Chaos, finally released after untold thousands of years, decided they hated just about everyone and raised an army like no one had ever seen. Demons, overpowered undead, chaos-wraiths that could erase people from memory, and chaos dragons the demons used as mounts all gathered. All of the enemies were immune to damage unless it came from weapons blessed by the gods.
Paladine’s decision to allow the Knights of Takhisis to triumph in their push became clearer at that point because Chaos’s forces started in the Knights’ territory and they took the brunt of the initial assaults. However, in the end Chaos didn’t care what moral stance anyone took; they just wanted wholesale destruction. Consultation with the god Reorx revealed that if they could get a drop of Chaos’s blood into the greygem, Chaos will flee lest he be trapped in one form, something they would hate. An objectively odd alliance of Knights of Takhisis and Solamnia, elves, ogres, and dwarves lures Chaos’s forces to the Abyss. A spell is cast to force Chaos into a single form. Several warriors try to use dragonlances to draw Chaos’s blood but are unsuccessful. In the end Tasslehoff sacrifices himself to get the required blood, and Chaos withdraws from Krynn.
There was also some time travel bullshit with Tasslehoff but since all of that involves time travel and kender that’s two out of three of us who want no part of it.
This being thirty years after the War of the Lance, new blood takes a more prominent role a lot of the time. Flint Fireforge and Sturm Brightblade were already dead at the start of the book, and Tanis falls during the initial push by the Knights of Takhisis. Caramon and Raistlin had a bit of a thing with Tasselhoff that caused Raistlin to sacrifice himself to the Abyss, but when Chaos erupted he was freed, albeit without magic. By the time of the Chaos war Caramon is running an Inn with his wife. Laurana is acting as an advisor to her son with Tanis, who has become king of one of the elven nations, and Goldmoon and Riverwind are taking care of the hill people. A lot of the action focuses on the offspring of the Majere family, who figure out the magical components of the solutions, and on Tasslehoff.
So as part of getting her knights to help with defeating Chaos, and because she was bitter about them letting her people take most of the heat, Takhisis got all the other gods to withdraw so she could amplify the power she lent to her followers. After Chaos was taken care of, she then physically relocated Krynn so the rest of the gods couldn’t find it. Absent the gods of good and the ones of magic, all the wizards and clerics were S.O.L. The only ones who could do magic were sorcerers, who got their power from the planet’s innate magic. Without the gods’ protection, Krynn became vulnerable to beings calling themselves the Dragon Overlords. Larger and more powerful than native dragons, they enslaved all the Krynnish dragons they could find, though most of the metallics hid themselves. Eventually their leader, a huge Red dragon named Malystryx, makes everyone play nice and stop killing each other. “Everyone” in this case is only dragons, mind you.
Around the same time, a girl named Mina is shipwrecked where Goldmoon is living. Apparently orphaned, Goldmoon raises her and teaches her to be a Cleric of Mishakal, even though the god is gone. At 14, Mina hears a voice identifying itself as the “one true god” and leaves Goldmoon to go learn from it.
Three years later she washes up on the shores of Ansalon following a massive storm. She immediately meets a group of knights and ingratiates herself by healing one of them of a missing arm, magic that no one has seen for decades. She tells them the power is from the one god, and gets them to follow her. Thus begins a Joan-of-Arc style campaign across Ansalon. Constantly touting the power and rightness of the “one true god,” Mina gathers more and more people and defeats both evil armies and Dragon overlords, at one point even turning an overlord blue dragon’s lightning back on itself with her power. During this time Mina met with her adoptive mother Goldmoon. Thinking to help her, she restored Goldmoon’s youth using the power of the one god. However, Goldmoon immediately recognized the power; it was actually Takhisis. Rejecting the gift, Goldmoon aged rapidly and died. Following the instructions of the One True God, Mina put Goldmoon’s body in a coffin of amber to preserve it. At that point Mina becomes less about fighting evil specifically and simply aims to conquer the world. She still removes a number of the problematic Dragon Overlords, but her conquest starts getting more indiscriminate. She takes over several cities who follow the teachings of Paladine, this time using armies of undead. For an encore, she kills the two most powerful magic users in the world, one of whom is Palin Majere, then raises them as basically involuntary liches. She then goes to Lord Soth, former commander of Takhisis’s armies, and asks him to join her. He tells her off after insulting Takhisis, at which point Takhisis reveals that she is the one behind Mina’s power and kills the lord for his insolence.
Mina no longer cares who Takhisis is and begins working toward allowing her to manifest in her full glory. Both Malystryx and the remaining metallic dragons, along with anyone that even slightly believes in good, are against this and race to stop her. Malystryx tries to undermine Takhisis by taking out Mina and severely wounds her, but the god retaliates by reanimating a bone dragon and tearing the large red dragon apart, unfortunately dropping the carcass on the already dying Mina, who has to be nursed back to health. At the same time, all of her use of godlike power on a massive scale has allowed the original gods of Krynn to locate the planet again. They’re on their way and Mina knows she’s working against a clock. The forces of good arrive to stop the manifestation, but they’re too late; Takhisis is already on the scene. That distraction allows the heroes to overcome her. The god Paladine, realizing Takhisis can’t be stopped without direct intervention, decides to give up his godhood. In order to maintain cosmic balance, that sacrifice renders Takhisis vulnerable. With the use of a broken dragonlance, one of the heroes kills Takhisis, and is then in turn killed by Mina.
The take-away of all this? Remember, almost all the major events we covered are detailed in one or more books. The War of the Lance, war against chaos, and the whole thing with Mina are what many people consider to be core dragonlance history; all of the associated novels were written by both Weiss and Hickman and take Dragonlance up to the so-called “present timeline.” The only other trilogy both authors wrote is the bit with Raistlyn, Caramon, and Tasselhoff that we sort of skipped over. Everything else is accepted as canon but was written by other authors, though in some cases Weiss wrote some things on her own.