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Hello, fellow TDM people. Already a while back, @Kurshok and a few other people raised the idea that it might be useful to create something of an overview of the fictional history of The Empire and of nearby lands and regions. Personally, I didn't feel as strongly about it as them, but it was an interesting idea. After putting some thought into it and creating some preliminary notes, I plan to attempt just that. But first, I want to make some clarifications in the following FAQ. Q: Oh no ! This will be considered canon and we'll have to be subservient to it and required to follow it, right ? A: It will not be considered canon, because The Dark Mod de facto has no 100 % canon. Aside from the things established by the game in its first years (see the "universe" wiki articles) and things established in the official missions, virtually everything about the setting beyond that is semi-canonical. Q: So, our new FMs will not have to adhere to the timeline absolutely ? What if they contradict something in it ? A: Of course they won't have to. There are already a fair few missions that are vague about their location, or don't even take place in The Empire. No one's expected to follow some semi-canonical compilation of history and "lore" to the letter, nor should they. As the title of the thread states, this'll be more of a vague guideline. The sole reason I'm bothering with this project at all is to address the occassional complaints that "the sheer number of FMs could create big inconsistencies in TDM". You want slightly more consistency ? You want more guidelines ? Okay. Q: What about the details of the timeline ? Please don't overdo it with extrapolations of existing TDM setting elements. A: The timeline and ancilliary stuff will be written in a manner which provides a basic idea about the world of TDM, particularly history and setting elements seen in The Empire, and some of the more "civilised" states and cultures that border The Empire on land and overseas. Extrapolations will not be overdone, in part because TDM already has pretty good and consistent writing in its FM (for the most part) and good and consistent adherence to the setting's tone, and in part because I don't want this mini-project veering off into implausible fanfiction. As a simple example, when covering any paragraphs about the "present day" technology of The Empire, things like extremely rare experimental airships might get a brief mention (to acknowledge the single airship appearing in the FM Pandora's Box). On the other hand, we don't know much about the existence of guns in the setting, so I intend to treat them as an existing technology that's not gone much beyond maybe a 15th century to very early 16th century timeframe (i.e. they have fairly capable early artillery in the world of TDM, but gunpowder hasn't become crucial yet, and there isn't much variety or user-friendliness in handheld firearms, so forget about wheellocks or flintlocks or all forms of pistols). And that's just the technology. There's plenty of other areas where you can fill in some unclear gaps, but subtly, rather than completely wild extrapolating to the point of absurdity. TDM is a subtle stealth game in a technologically more archaic setting, with a subtle presentation, so any and all extrapolation should be subtle as well. Q: Anything else ? A: There will be an in-universe excuse for the semi-canonical nature of the whole thing. The timeline and claims of various literature about history will not always be consistent, as lack of more accurate records, and the interpretations and biases of the authors will play a role. So, you will not be getting a "The Absolutely True Unabridged History of The Empire" and you shouldn't even expect to receive one. What you will see instead is a broad interpretation of the history of The Empire, the Known World, the Faith of the Builder, etc. Concerning the Faith of the Builder, many of the earliest bits of information will be almost semi-mythical, though a better term would be "legendary" in the original sense of the word. Legends of the lives of the saints, and so on, with the interpretation of details provided in such stories or historical accounts being up to the reader. Maybe some supernatural events were only a tradition and didn't happen, maybe they did, maybe no one knows for sure after so many centuries, etc. Pondering this is intentionally all the more complicated, given that TDM takes place in a world where some magic and some obviously supernatural things demonstrably happen from time to time. If I include any writing by either various strands of the Church or by pagan-sympathizes/apologists, this will portray disparate views on a variety of topics, including religion, interpretation of historical events and historical personalities, etc. Expect that biases will be clear here, with any of the sides often attempting to lionize and whitewash their cause or preferred stuff, while denigrating or even demonizing others. Some of the earlier histories will also reflect rulers who were less educated, but had educated individuals write the histories of their particular period: "History is written by the victors... unless they're actually illiterate !" Q: Is feedback to this little project welcomed ? A: Not only welcomed, I even actively seek feedback from you fine people and outright ask for it nicely ! Granted, different people will have different ideas of what to include or not, where to draw the line on something being vague and mysterious and something relatively well understood, but all in all, I think reasonable compromises might be found in debate. Just keep things level-headed and remember the scope and atmosphere of the setting (lest we stray too far from it). Q: Besides feedback, do you need help with anything else ? A: I certainly do. What's arguably even more important is helping out gathering some of the written materials from existing FMs. Materials that might pertain to the history of the setting, whether it be the local history of some village, town, city or other settlement (fortifications and monasteries are also welcome), or some regional history of a particular geographic area, or the general history of The Empire and of the Builder Church, or even foreign and faraway lands. Things like the history of science and research in the setting and so on is also interesting information you could source from FM readables. I will try to gradually contact various FM authors and ask them about any details that are unclear from the readables of their FMs. I'll also inquire whether they're okay with their FMs being considered at least semi-canonical, for the purposes of the timeline. However, if any FM authors or someone who knows their missions in-and-out decide to show up in this thread and correct the information or claims listed here, or add to them with some out-of-game notes cut from the FM, that would be splendid too. I want the timeline, especially of the more recent history of The Empire, to be fairly consistent with any dates and events that occur in FMs that might be of note. Please bear in mind: Individual stories and twists from FMs that are unlikely to ever become public will not be listed in these overviews. Most things experienced by Corbin, Thomas Porter, William Steele et al will always be known to few and never recorded in the chronicles, literature and news of The Empire. Wish me luck and feel free to contribute at your own pace.
Recently, about a month ago, @demagogue mentioned the following in another discussion: While we're at it, someone really needs to write an official history of the Empire and a lot of associated fanfic to give our world backstory. And someone ought to make an art book with screenshots across all our FMs and some story, as if it were like one of those travel photo books. Something people put on their coffee table for discussion and just to flip through for fun, or in your case actually make the things. I see the idea you're talking about as something along those lines. I even promised demagogue I might look into it in the future. All of this got me thinking... We know The Dark Mod does not have a strict canon, per se. There's Bridgeport and The Empire, a few other cities, there's notes on what technology, society and the fantastical elements of this setting are, what the various typical "factions" are and how they vary greatly, what the atmosphere and tone is like, and so on and so forth. However, the rest of the things are far more nebulous and are generally down to what an individual player or fan of TDM is willing to accept as potential canon. We had the references to cities (Braeden) or minor setting elements (the mandrasola drug, etc.) throghout multiple missions by unrelated authors, and those are just the simplest of examples. In short, what constitutes as TDM canon, beyond those fairly official basics, is quite maleable. With all of the above in mind, and taking demagogue's ideas into account, I think we could compile a rough, loose history of the overall setting. It doesn't need to be obsessively filled with details, but we could give people some vague idea of what happened in the last two thousand or so years before what we generally portray as the "present day" of the TDM setting. I think we already have plenty of interesting source material to work with, if our goal is to create a rough timeline/outline of The Empire's history, the Builder church's history, and hints at what the history of the world outside of The Empire has been like (also counting with possibly biased accounts, in-universe). Now, speaking about that source material, what do I actually consider as source material ? Technically, every mission or nearly every mission made for TDM could be potentially considered source material. However, I am a little bit more picky about this. I think the closest we have to an established, "hard canon" for the game's universe, is a lot of the above-mentioned source material, and that occurs primarily in two places: In the two or three official missions that come with the basic TDM install (Training Mission, A New Job, The Tears of St Lucia), and in the main Universe articles on the TDM wiki. These are going to be my primary source for compiling the history, chronologically and otherwise. In addition to the official-as-official-gets missions and official universe notes, I am also willing to include stuff from all fan missions, if it expands the history of the setting in interesting, but reasonable ways. If the premise of a mission clearly doesn't fit the rest of the setting directly or is quite jokey, then I won't consider it a reasonable enough source for a potential addition to "canon". Why would demagogue suggest we should compile such a more detailed background history ? Personally, while I don't mind the idea, I am also fine with keeping things as they currently are. At the same time, I have noticed the number of people who come to the forums, clamouring things like "Where's the sprawling story campaign ? Where's the sprawling background story of the setting ?". Less of the latter thankfully, more of the former, for understandable reasons. Still, it seems that a lot of newcomers to TDM, especially those with pre-conceived notions from their time playing Thief (or other fantasy games), seem to want more from the overall setting than just the missions and mission series we have. Honestly, I'm torn on this. I've always been an elliptical storytelling style guy. Less is more. A hint here, a hint there, a throw-away comment there... Some games try to overdo it with super-detailed lore and the results can be... questionable and grating. Part of why I'd prefer that, if we do compile more of a broadly accepted "canon" for TDM's setting, then it should still be accepted in that "broad" way. I.e. it is soft and maleable enough that it does not tie mission-maker's hands, with regards to missions and stories set in the past, present and potential future of the TDM setting. A lot of players think they know what they want if they want a detailed setting, but more often that not, it just ends up with things being overexplained and losing their "charm" and a reasonable degree of mystique. After all, even die-hard Thief fans should acknowledge one thing: Thief didn't try to explain everything. Far from it ! The entire trilogy was very fond of elliptical storytelling, with hinted-at stuff and loads of unexplained stuff and references. I think TDM should keep with that, even if we potentially expand the "hard canon" parts of TDM's canon. Not stuff like "in this or that year, William Steele was born", but certainly stuff like "from the 4th to 7th century of its existence, the Empire was ruled by this or that dynasty, in a unique tetrarchic set-up", and similar.