Last time in our cartographic exploration of Dragonlance, I published a map of the whole world of Krynn. This time around our focus is on the continent of Ansalon, the principle location for the events in the Dragonlance novels and tabletop gaming materials.
Ansalon is a small continent located in Krynn’s southern hemisphere. It was once a much larger continent, but approximately 351 years before the events of the first Dragonlance novel, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the gods became incensed by the arrogance of the Kingpriest of Istar and dropped a flaming mountain onto eastern Ansalon, the very heart of the Empire. The resulting explosion tore Ansalon apart, created new seas and causing untold destruction. This event, the Cataclysm, wiped out much of the population and destroyed Istar and weakened its great western rivals, Ergoth and Solamnia. In the wake of the Cataclysm, the gods turned their back on Krynn and would no longer heed the prayers of their faithful.
Unbeknown to the other gods, these events had been engineered by Takhisis, the five-headed dragon goddess, to permit her return to Krynn, which she wished to rule over alone. Over the next three and a half centuries, she carefully built up a power base of worshippers and minions in Ansalon, headed by dozens of chromatic dragons. They in turn seized the central, mountainous Khalkist region and used this as a fortress to recruit armies and strike at surrounding lands. By the autumn of 351 AC the dragonarmies had overrun much of central and eastern Ansalon, and neutralised much of the west through pacts and treaties. In The Dragonlance Chronicles (both the adventures and novels), a band of heroes from the town of Solace in Abanasinia are drawn into the conflict and eventually rally the free nations to make a stand against the invaders and prevent Takhisis’ return to Krynn. During the conflict, the other gods also resume their contact with Krynn and the good-aligned metallic dragons join forces with the free kingdoms. The heroes also recover the “dragonlances,” powerful weapons which neutralised the advantage of the chromatic dragons in battle.
Subsequent Dragonlance novels have explored the history of the world backwards in time for thousands of years and forward for over a hundred, through the Second Cataclysm and the War of Souls.
Ansalon is one of the most heavily-mapped lands in all of fantasy. Maps of the continent accompanied both the Dragonlance adventure modules for the Dungeons & Dragons game system and the Dragonlance Chronicles novel series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, which both began in 1984. Two hundred novels and many dozens of gaming materials followed until the last new Dragonlance material was published in 2010, mapping the continent in whole or in part.
This map drew on several resources: Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of the Dragonlance World (1987), the Tales of the Lance boxed set (1992) and Tasslehoff’s Map Pouch: The War of the Lance (2006). Fonstad’s map was the earliest attempt to seriously tackle the geography of Ansalon, that is, make it work as a realistic landscape in its own right (Fonstad had done the same previously for Middle-earth, Pern and Donaldson’s The Land, and would go on to do the same for Forgotten Realms). However, as a relatively early publication it is missing many locations added by later writers.
Tales of the Lance has one of the most gloriously huge and detailed fantasy maps ever seen, to the point where it seems the artist ran out of time. The map is clearly unfinished, with unnamed locations all over the place. However, some feel this adds to the mystique of the map.
Tasslehoff’s Map Pouch was a series of maps released by Sovereign Press (Margaret Weis’s company) when they acquired the licence to published third-party Dragonlance material for the 3rd edition of Dungeons and Dragons, between 2003 and 2010. The map series featured maps of Ansalon during all three of its main eras of interest: the Age of Might before the Cataclysm; the Age of Mortals after the Second Cataclysm; and the Age of Despair, also the time of the War of the Lance and the most iconic period of Dragonlance history. The War of the Lance map takes the 1992 map and finishes it off, which is great, but the art style is, to be honest, something of an acquired taste. The coastlines are also a great deal less detailed than the Tales of the Lance and Atlas versions.
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