The timeline I made was something I did in the third or fourth year of the campaign. I decided that my world needed a rough history, mostly for myself. I think I was running the Ulman campaign (a new campaign in a country gripped by civil war… very Black Company in feel) in university at this point while occasionally running holiday sessions with the original group. So I had story playing out all over the map (Ulman was a country set in the south-eastern portion of the map that was barely there, just a land beyond a mountain range with lots of forts and borders). I was really getting the opportunity to explore my creation.
The time line went back ten thousand years to a ‘Mythic Era’. I started ‘history’ with a defining moment, that would allow the world the players were familiar with to come into being. Ten thousand years seemed suitably epic to me. As I created it, I wrote in ‘ages’ because, well, wasn’t that how fantasy back-stories were done?
So I had my ubiquitous ‘Age of Magic’ when magic was super powerful and allowed for things that basically boil down to high-tech. Sort of an Atlantean idea that could also justify a world filled with strange ruins and dungeons filled with crazy monsters. After the end of that period, when flying cities crashed to the ground as magic left the world, I had the Age of Strife (essentially a 1-2 thousand-year ‘dark age’), and so on and so on.
For a long time, I’d lost those piece of paper, though I clearly remembered the beginning of history, so this tended to get referenced a lot in the games I ran. I even ran one short-lived campaign in the Mythic prehistory, when Tryshallan ruled the world serving the will of their Living ‘Gods’.
The interesting thing about the time line is that until recently, none of it really mattered. The only thing that mattered was the ‘modern age’ (the age I’d set the campaign in) and the mythic dawn, when the world was new. The players couldn’t seem to escape the ramifications of the past. Some of this was retconning, as I explained things that originally weren’t fully thought out in my head and later on made more sense in light of new play or a sudden epiphany on how I could make it fit together.
Though I’d imagined the story of the basic thrust of prehistory, and even alluded to it in the original campaign, it didn’t get much fleshing out till the Ulman campaign when I used it to justify a dungeon the players were exploring. That campaign never got finished, as the group broke up as groups often do. But that history became key to the setting, as past and present have become inextricably linked thanks to the actions of the modern pcs.
But the nice thing about playing with different groups and setting games in different times is that every time I do, I get to flesh more of the world history out and learn, along with my players, what the world was like then and there. It’s a fascinating experience that keeps me interested and coming back for more.