Forums: Helping Hand > Complete Book of Necromancers Date

Use the following template for a nicely presented post:

{{Forum post|Write your message here!|~~~~}}

I found another interesting dating problem: The Complete Book of Necromancers contains a campaign setting section detailing the "Isle of the Necromancer Kings", which is Sahu in Zakhara. While we consider Al-Qadim material as set in 1367 DR, there are some reasons to date TCBoN later:

A character named Kazerabet is detailed in Cities of Bone as 16th-level necromancer and queen of Ysawis. In TCBoN she is 20th level and has relocated to Sahu some time ago.

In CoB, Kazerabet is married to Sumulael, who may be killed in that adventure, when she offers to marry one of the adventuring party. In TCBoN appears a character named Talib, who has married Kazerabet "in his youth" and is "now" "in his sixities".

If we take this seriously, some fourty years should have passed and the "Isle of the Necromancer Kings" should actually be set after 1400 DR, putting this 2nd edition setting squarely between 3rd and 4th edtion and after the Spellplague.

(Kazerabet is also 200+ in TCBoN. There is no hint about this in CoB, but also nothing which directly contradicts it.)

And then there is even more speculation in this thread:

Ruined Kingdoms - Necromancer Kings query. Candlekeep Forum.

Now how should we handle that? Ignore the discrepancy and treat the "Isle of the Necromancer Kings" as set in 1367 DR as part of Al-Qadim? Call the corresponding information as "around 1400 DR", possibly with a footnote (which would currently be my favourite)? Or does anyone have a different idea? Or even better, is anyone able to narrow down the date?

Thank you very much for input!

Daranios (talk) 20:05, December 7, 2018 (UTC)

I'll chime in more as I dive a bit deeper into both sources, but agree that TCBoN is set later based simply on Kazerabet's level stats and that I have yet to see Sumulael mentioned in TCBoN.
Artemaz (talk) 21:29, December 7, 2018 (UTC)

I have nothing to add to the conversation, but I am very interested in dating issues in general. I have never understood why we date all Al-Qadim material as set in 1367 DR to begin with. None of the other settings are thought to "exist" during a single year.
~ Lhynard (talk) 16:34, December 8, 2018 (UTC)

What about the reverse? Could The Complete Book of Necromancers be set around 1367 DR and the rest of the Zakhara setting around 1327 DR? It wouldn't be that unusual: a lot of tacked-on settings and modules have been assigned much earlier dates than the core FR setting. And going further back in time helps Grand Caliph Arash bint Sanjar fit with the AQ timeline, but needs a few more centuries for that.

What is the basis for assuming a 1367 DR date for Al-Qadim anyway? Is it just the fanon timeline assumption alluded to in the Candlekeep discussion?

As for dating CBN, then Cyric's status as a death god (pages 65, 75) should narrow it to between 1358 and 1368 DR. But Bhaal and Myrkul have the same status and they're already dead, and Kelemvor isn't mentioned at all, despite CBN being published in 1995, two years after Prince of Lies.
— BadCatMan (talk) 12:55, December 9, 2018 (UTC)

Interesting thought! The decision for 1367 DR as the date for Al-Qadim comes from the comparatively short discussion here. I think it was mainly based on paralleling the setting with the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition published around the same time. This could of course be overturned if we find good in-universe reasons, but that would mean a lot of work, adjusting basically all Zakhara-related articles.

To the point raised by Lhynard, I think it is correct that Al-Qadim is not offically dated relative to the Forgotten Realms, and it seems reasonable to give its material the same year (with TCBoN being a special case and an exception): The different accessories detail different areas of Zakhara, but with no apparent development in time.

In case we seem to have a discrepancy between datings relying on Kazerabet and Cyric: Do we need to assign the same year for the "Isle of the Necromancer Kings" setting (Kazerabet) and the more rules/background flavor-related parts of the sourcebook (Cyric)?

Using the mention of Cyric for dating may also have two additional problems: P. 75 lists existing helpful background material, which is Forgotten Realms Adventures for the Realms. Prince of Lies may have not been included because it is a novel and not a sourcebook, and Faiths & Avatars was not published yet. P. 65 features Cyric within a tale from the "Nycoptic Manuscripts", and to me both the Manuscripts and the tale give an impression of antiquity, possibly related to Loviatar's roots in the Finnish pantheon. Then the presence of Cyric only makes sense when the tale is based on visions of the Manuscripts' mad author.
Daranios (talk) 20:16, December 9, 2018 (UTC)

You're right there. The Cyric mentions in CBoN are an in-universe legend (and might've been retconned to include Cyric) and a short list of sample death gods, so it's hard to use them as a solid basis for dating.

And things being misdated into the future is also possible: the Double Diamond Triangle Saga is dated to 1377 DR, with Khelben appearing after his official death. But that's another issue entirely.

I think what dating Al-Qadim needs (apart from flowers and a good restaurant) is to find an NPC or specific event mentioned in both FR or AQ lore, though they're very few. It would require a deep search of the lore with expert AQ knowledge.

But I think I've found something: Dragon magazine 351 details... the World Serpent Inn! The articles catch up on various settings around the World Serpent Inn, including Al-Qadim. One regular of the inn is Akim al-Kalaas, some time but no level change later from his Assassin Mountain appearance. The next article details the High Desert tribes; you'd have to check what if anything has changed among them; the House of Sihr at least is unchanged. But the House of Tayif were founded "a decade ago" which might fix things if their founding date is known.

Another regular is Mellomir of Arabel. Added to the list of his successful predictions is Iakhovas's war of 1369 DR and the return of the City of Shade in 1372 DR. The magazine was published in 2007, so we can assume an early/mid-1370s DR date for the FR aspects of the article. PPPS: The January 2007 publication date of Dragon #351 suggests a date of 1374 DR, based on publications and dates of other sourcebooks.

There's no suggestion of a time travel element to the World Serpent Inn in 3e write-ups, and with at least three of its entrances on Toril, that would rapidly become catastrophic if anyone travelled overland between them.

Nevertheless, to confirm, I'll check over the article on the town of Cham Fau for the Kara-Tur setting, a town also detailed in KTCS V1 circa 1357 DR (it's nice to see KT post-1357 DR). Some things are the same, some things are new or have moved on. The young magistrate is now a veteran, though he didn't get levels last time. Abbot Cho Fong plotted to attack a rival temple one night in 1357 DR in the KTCS, and was deposed for it "more than fifteen years ago" in the Dragon article, putting this article after 1372 DR, and one might allow a few years between the attack and the abbot getting deposed (kung fu revenge storylines take a while).

So, via the World Serpent Inn, both FR and KT are contemporaneous, so we should assume AQ is too. This strongly supports the c. 1367 DR date for the Al-Qadim setting. PPS: If the founding date of the House of Tayif is known, it might be fixed more precisely.

<takes a bow>
— BadCatMan (talk) 02:15, December 10, 2018 (UTC)

Wow, you do seem to know everything ;-)! And I am kind of happy that things point towards 1367 DR for Al-Qadim.
I did not find a concrete dating for the House of Tayif, but the material gives the impression that is has existed for some years: Its leader did gain a thousand followers and some notoriety (Land of Fate), and some members were cast out, found a new home, a few of them died and "now" mostly bones are left of their corpses (Caravans).
Daranios (talk) 20:35, December 10, 2018 (UTC))

Okay. Assuming a 1374 DR date for Dragon #351, then the House of Tayif would've been founded "a decade ago" in 1363/1364 DR. That leaves them a few years to get started, gain and lose members, and some to settle in Vahtov. We still don't have a precise date for the general Al-Qadim setting, but we can pin it between 1364 DR and 1372 DR and can assume it keeps track with the Realms, and the late 1360s seems most likely for the Tayif. This well supports the presumed 1367 DR date we've had all along. Whew! :D

Then I suppose the question remains as to the date of The Complete Book of Necromancers. It seems highly unlikely that Cities of Bone alone is 40-odd years behind the rest of the AQ setting, and this would surely produce other continuity errors.

I wondered if Talib might have just aged rapidly to appear in his 60s, but CBN specifies a few decades have passed as well, so that's out. I also assume there's no evidence of time passing more quickly in Ysawis.

That leaves CBN being 40-odd years ahead of the AQ setting and in the early 1400s DR. Weirdly, I like this. CBN is a core source, not an FR-branded one, so it doesn't have to fit the timeline. Nor is it known if or how the Spellplague affected Zakhara (though Kara-Tur was affected, somehow) and we don't have to assume rules changes impact the setting (rather, rules are a representation of the setting). The lore remains valid, the rules remain a model of it. The CBN lore doesn't seem to relate heavily to the wider setting, so it doesn't contradict much in an already vague era, while 4e's Open Grave completely forgets CBN. And most of all, it suits the timeless / out-of-time feel of the Clark Ashton Smith stories that the Isle of the Necromancer Kings is based on. Time has passed it by.
— BadCatMan (talk) 03:09, December 11, 2018 (UTC)

: "It seems highly unlikely that Cities of Bone alone is 40-odd years behind the rest of the AQ setting." This goes back to my earlier question of why we are assuming the entire setting to fit into a single year. I agree that 40 years is a stretch, but I have 2e FR sourcebooks stretching from as early as 1358 to 1371. That's 14 years. My studies into the dating of the Spelljammer setting show that the earlier books were in 1360, while the later books were in perhaps as late as 1367. The novels of the Maztica setting begin in 1352 and end in 1362.
~ Lhynard (talk) 15:33, December 11, 2018 (UTC)

To expand a little bit on what I said earlier: Within the bulk of Al-Qadim material I can remember no instances where one could see time pass between modules. E.g. Ruined Kingdoms (1994) quotes whole descriptions from Land of Fate (1992). If someone came upon such instances that would be highly interesting, but until then I think we have no basis of assigning different years to different accessories.

A minor argument is that Al-Qadim was published in the short time of 1992 to 1994 (Reunion being a deliberate exception here), while 2nd edition Realms material stretches from 1990 to 2000.

Of course here we are talking exactly about an exception (some Dragon articles might also qualify). But then I prefer assigning a different date to TCBoN, not Cities of Bone, as long as there is no strong argument to the contrary.

Daranios (talk) 15:26, December 12, 2018 (UTC)

"I can remember no instances where one could see time pass between modules." "Al-Qadim was published in the short time of 1992 to 1994 (Reunion being a deliberate exception here), while 2nd edition Realms material stretches from 1990 to 2000." Ah, OK. That all makes sense. Thanks!
~ Lhynard (talk) 15:39, December 12, 2018 (UTC)

After skimming the Isle of the Necromancer Kings chapter of tCBoN more closely, it seems to be a mini-setting designed to be plugged into other settings, even if it's nominally in Al-Qadim. So, it seems fair to date it to the early 1400s DR, but also to note that it's somewhat out-of-continuity, being a sub-setting from a core book in an old edition ahead of its time. It might be overwritten if Al-Qadim were ever revisited.
— BadCatMan (talk) 12:21, December 13, 2018 (UTC)

I have tried to put this into practice at Nycopolis, creating Template:Ne-time for that. I am sure the phrasing can still be improved.

I have chosen the phrase "around 1410 DR" based on the following: I have assumed that Talib married Kazerabet in 1367 DR (probably after helping to kill Sumulael, he may have been one of the adventuring party in the "Court of the Necromancers" adventure from Cities of Bone). To look at the extremes: If "in his youth" means Talib was 16 then, and "in his sixties" means 69 in TCBoN, that would set the "Isle of the Necromancer Kings" in 1420 DR. On the other hand if he was, say, 29 then and is 61 in TCBoN, that would make it 1399 DR. And 1410 would be in that range.

Please let me know if you prefer a different phrasing, or if we should indeed fix a reasonable year, even though we cannot derive an exact one from the source material.

Daranios (talk) 19:58, December 14, 2018 (UTC)

I think that calculation is sound, but might suggest a less specific date. The common interpretation of "around 1410 DR" or "circa 1410 DR" would likely be 1405–1415 or 1407–1413, say, which is more precise than we mean. Perhaps "early 1400s DR" would be more appropriate? I found another date reference in tCBoN: page 113 says it's been "almost 30 years" since the death of Nebt Bhakau, the Court Astrologer of Afyal. If Bhakau is known anywhere else, particularly the date of his death, then that might narrow things down further.
— BadCatMan (talk) 00:11, December 15, 2018 (UTC)

"Early 1400s DR" sounds good to me.
I have looked for Nebt Bhakau, but could not find him in Al-Qadim material, so I think he is introduced in TCBoN only, and thus unfortunately cannot help us with the dating.
Daranios (talk) 20:47, December 15, 2018 (UTC)