When the true gods punished Istar by wreaking the Cataclysm on Krynn, a shower of meteors pounded the continent of Ansalon. Halfway around the world, a similar continent was shattered by a single, enormous meteor. Thousands of square miles of land disappeared beneath a smoking sea of magma, which boiled up from beneath the planet's crust. Mountain ranges were toppled, rivers changed course, and weather patterns were altered. Survivors were scattered and isolated. The devastation was nearly complete.
Centuries later, the cultures and societies which rise out of the ruins are uniquely shaped by this savage environment. The minotaurs with their eloquent diplomats, elite legions, and gladiatorial contests, are spreading their influence throughout the hemisphere. Wild elves fight territorial wars with humans, kender, and gnomes. Fearsome fire minions rampage around the coasts of the lava ocean while the Followers of Hith seek to dominate the land.
Time of the Dragon includes two information-packed books totaling 160 pages, four full-color maps, and 24 individual color plates showing maps, NPCs, and major races.
Time of the Dragon (1989), by David "Zeb" Cook, was the first boxed set for the Dragonlance setting. It was published in October 1989.
About the Cover. The cover to Time of the Dragon is a piece by popular Dragon magazine artist Robin Wood. It originally appeared as the cover to Dragon #97 (May 1985).
Origins (I): Onward Krynn. Following the completion of the fourteen-book Dragonlance Chronicles adventure cycle (1984-1986), TSR's new setting foundered, in large part due to the departure of creators Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. But TSR was working to repair that with the advent of AD&D 2e (1989), first with a new epic trilogy of "DLE" adventures (1989) and now with the setting's first ever boxed set.
However, the topic of the box might have surprised some players, because it wasn't a comprehensive starting point for traditional Dragonlance play, which you might have expected for a first boxed set. In fact, that was something that the setting wouldn't get for two more years!
Origins (II): A Design Meeting. Time of the Dragon originated at "a now-legendary designer pitch session at Augie's in Lake Geneva, near the Horticultural Hall". Manager James Ward called the meeting in 1988, in the waning years of AD&D 1e (1977-1989). The topic was simple: the boxed sets for the next year.
Two major boxes came out of the meeting, both of which would push the boundary of D&D's traditional fantasy. One was the very far-flung Spelljammer (1989) setting, while the other was a new Dragonlance setting, on the other side of the world, Time of the Dragon (1989).
Author Zeb Cook had originally declined work on Time of the Dragon because he hadn't previously worked on Dragonlance. Ward told him "Since you haven’t done any Dragonlance, Zeb, this would be a great place to start".
Origins (III): A Soft Reboot. It's hard to overstate how much of a revamp Time of the Dragon was for Dragonlance. It carries over a scant few concepts from the original setting of Ansalon, such as the idea of a cataclysm and the focus on creating unique and innovative races. Beyond that it's almost totally new.
What the designers didn't realize at the time is that they were creating the first major fraction in the Dragonlance line, as players might now be interested in the traditional continent of Ansalon or the new continent of Taladas, but probably not both. Dragonlance would become even more fractured in future years, as the timeline was moved forward in Dragons of Summer Flame (1995), Dragonlance: Fifth Age (1996), and the War of Souls trilogy (2000-2002).
This fracturing created support issues for TSR and threatened to divide the fanbase, but TSR probably wasn't considering any of these problems in 1988 and 1989 because the whole idea of so dramatically expanding and changing a setting was almost unknown at the time. The closest that TSR had come was their introduction of the east to the Forgotten Realms in Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (1988), but that was the grafting of an old setting as opposed to the creation of a new one. The publication of the Horde Barbarian Campaign Setting (1990) and the Maztica Campaign Set (1991) would be more in line with what TSR was doing with Time of the Dragon … and ultimately TSR wouldn't be able to support any of these large-scale extensions to their settings.
Origins (IV): Taking the Fifth. Surprisingly, Time of the Dragon also contains the first hints for what would become the Dragonlance: Fifth Age game. The Marak kender would be reimagined as the afflicted kender of the Fifth Age while the gnomoi would become thinker gnomes.
Resurrected Races. One of the most interesting aspects of the original Dragonlance adventures was their extensive detailing of demihuman races — a level of background never before seen in the D&D game. Time of the Dragon repeats this feat, debuting new human clans and new variants of dwarves and elves.
However, two traditional Dragonlance races faced the biggest changes. The first are the kender, known in Taladas as the Marak Kender. They're very sad. The second are gnomes, who are divided into the gnomoi and the minoi, essentially real inventors and the mad scientists.
Resurrected Races: Bring on the Monsters. The other major innovation of Time of the Dragon is its introduction of many monstrous races as possible PCs, including bakali (lizardmen), goblins, minotaurs, and ogres. Dragonlance Adventures (1987) had previously presented minotaurs as a PC race, but otherwise this was a first for AD&D. However, it was in line with the innovations of the Basic D&D line, which had first presented the idea of monstrous PCs in GAZ10: "The Orcs of Thar" (1988) and was now pushing it even more with the "PC" series (1989-1992).
This trend would grow even more in the '90s across a variety of product lines.
The Battlesystem Connection. As was the case with many major supplements from the late '80s and early '90s, Time of the Dragon has a Battlesystem (1985, 1989) connection, detailing armies of the land.
Exploring Krynn. Time of the Dragon introduces a whole new continent: Taladas. Though there are historical connections between Taladas and the traditional Dragonlance land of Ansalon, their geographical relationship isn't clear. That would await DLR1: "Otherlands" (1990).
Within Taladas, numerous societies are detailed across the entire continent. This includes a very comprehensive gazetteer and cultural overview of the entire land.
Monsters of Note. Besides offering details on a variety of monstrous races that are now available for PC use, Time of the Dragon also contains several Monstrous Compendium entries. The most notable are probably the traag draconian (a new more primitive sort of draconian) and the yaggol (a new, more primitive sort of mindflayer, descended from crashlanded spelljammers).
Whoops! "The Guide Book to Taladas" sometimes incorrectly refers to a "Book of Adventure". It means the "Rule Book of Talads", which must have been renamed late in the process.
Future History. Of the various sub-settings that TSR created around this time, Taladas was the best supported. That includes the "DLA" adventures (1990), most of the "DLR" accessories (1990-1993), DLS1: "New Beginnings" (1991), and more limited supported in several other releases. The gold box computer games moved to Taladas with The Dark Queen of Krynn (1992) and the comics did so starting with Dragonlance #22 (August 1990).
After the AD&D Dragonlance line was killed off in 1993, Taladas mostly disappeared, though it reappeared more recently in the Taladas Trilogy of novels (2005-2007) by Chris Pierson, beginning with Blades of the Tiger (2005).
About the Creator. Cook may not have known anything about Dragonlance when he began work on Time of the Dragon, but he was still one of TSR's stars, with the AD&D 2e rules (1989) being his most recent accomplishment. This was his only Dragonlance publication, other than some contributions to PG1: Player's Guide to the Dragonlance Campaign (1993).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.