Branches of the River of Time: Thoughts on a Multi-Krynn Paradigm
The concept of parallel universes, alternate timelines, and the like is fairly common in fantasy and science fiction, and has made at least three appearances in the Dragonlance Saga: Tasslehoff and Caramon's journey to a dying Krynn in Test of the Twins, the classic short story "There Is Another Shore, You Know, Upon the Other Side" by Roger E. Moore in The Dragons of Chaos, and Tasslehoff's reports on an alternate present from Dragons of a Fallen Sun. Here are some notes on different approaches to the concept.
How Many Krynns are There?
There are three possible interpretations of exactly how many Krynns exist, from my perspective:
1. One Krynn: The world of Krynn is a singular thing, traveling down the River of Time in one unified path. The only way to alter the course of the past or future is to take one of the Chaos-Touched or other 'new' races along. In this paradigm, "There Is Another Shore, You Know . . ." has to be treated as a dream.
2. Finite Krynns: At the beginning of Time (either the First Age or the Second Age, depending on your perspective), multiple Krynns, similar yet different, were created, each a different 'arrangement' of the same great Symphony of Creation. Once created, each one spins down its own branch of the River of Time. Often multiple Krynns will run in parallel for a time, but will diverge eventually. Occasionally, they'll even move back into similarity before drifting apart yet again. Forward and backward movement down the River of Time suffers the same restrictions as under #1, but 'sideways' movement to alternative Krynns becomes a possibility, thus allowing for stories like "There Is Another Shore, You Know, Upon the Other Side".
3. Infinite Krynns: The River of Time is one, but it branches into countless tributaries, Krynns splitting off from each other at key 'decision points'. Time travellers can cross over to alternate Krynns, and even alter the past or future--but doing the latter simply creates a new branch of the River of Time that sweeps them along with it, while leaving their original timeline largely or entirely intact. 'Forbidden' races allow this new timeline to overwrite the original. This was, in large measure, the model adopted by the old AD&D supplement Chronomancer.
Any of these three works with the information we're given in the books, although version #3 raises some questions regarding the War of Souls. I personally favor #2; I find #1 too restrictive, while #3 creates metaphysical issues I don't want to have to deal with.
A key question related to the question of multi-Krynn paradigms is how these Krynns interact with the gods. (A single-Krynn paradigm doesn't have these problems.)
#1: Multiple Pantheons. In #2, when each Krynn was created, its pantheon was brought into Creation with it. The Paladine, Gilean, Queen of Darkness, etc. on one Krynn may resemble one another strongly, but are different beings. In #3, just as mortals 'split' when two versions of Krynn split off from each other, so do the gods. In any event, each Krynn has its own pantheon that is responsible for it alone.
Under such a scheme, each Krynn could have a drastically different pantheon. On one world, Paladine could have fallen into Darkness while the forces of Good rally behind the Shining Queen. On another, Chaos might never have fallen from his original station, and would be revered as Paladine's superior and chief enemy of the Dragonqueen's schemes to destroy the world.
#2: One Pantheon to Rule Them All. The gods maintain responsibility for _all_ Krynns, whether they started out as a unified world or independently. The pantheon remains consistent across all worlds, although they might be 'cut off' from a timeline or Krynn (cf. "There Is Another Shore").
Ideas #1 and #2 don't conflict too much with the fate of Krynn as revealed in _Dragons of a Vanished Moon_, but #3 requires a bit of finessing. After all, if Krynn just diverged along multiple timelines after the Chaos War, how and why would the world be stolen?
If using the multi-pantheon approach with #3, assume that a pantheon 'split off' with the stolen Krynn in the moment of decision, but that the two were severed in that same instant. For a single pantheon approach, the gods knew that there was another Krynn out there without their guidance, and they feared what might happen to it without them. This approach, however, raises the question of 'what happened to the Dark Queen?' It may be that each creation of a new Krynn, while not creating a wholly new god, adds a new 'facet' to that god to deal with the new Krynn, and the other members of the pantheon noted that while their 'facets' for the War of Souls Krynn were adrift, the Dark Queen did not suffer from the same problem.
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