The Dragonlance world is described in dozens of books and novels. The setting contains numerous characters, an extensive timeline, and a detailed geography.
Dragonlance is set on the world of Krynn. The majority of the novels take place in the various regions of Ansalon, a small continent, though some have taken place on the continent of Taladas, located northeast of Ansalon. The world's major gods are the High God and his children: good Paladine, neutral Gilean, and evil Takhisis. The gods are opposed by Chaos, who seeks to destroy Krynn. Depending on the time period, the evil chromatic and the good metallic dragons are rare or plentiful. Humans are Krynn's most common humanoid race, but elves, dwarves, kender, gnomes, and minotaurs occupy the world as well. Clerics derive magical powers from their gods, and wizards derive their power from the three moon gods, good Solinari, neutral Lunitari, and evil Nuitari. Hickman had previously served as a Mormon missionary in Java for two years, and uses Indonesian in Dragonlance spells. During Krynn's various wars, armies of draconians are used as troops. Draconians are created by corrupting a dragon egg, thereby creating a reptilian humanoid. The eggs of good dragons create evil draconians, and vice versa.
Other gods of the setting include the gods of good Branchala, Habbakuk, Kiri-Jolith, Majere, and Mishakal; the gods of neutrality Chislev, Reorx, Shinare, Sirrion, and Zivilyn; and the gods of evil, Chemosh, Hiddukel, Morgion, Sargonnas, and Zeboim.
The history of the world of Krynn, and thus the settings for both the novels and gaming supplements, is roughly split into five separate ages. The first age is the time of creation, when the gods are born and Krynn is formed. The Age of Dreams, the second age, is marked by the rapid growth of the world's first great civilizations and the appearance of myriad new races. This era is also marked by three great wars between dragons and their minions. Following the Third Dragon War, in the Age of Might, the Cataclysm obliterates the great empire of Istar and changes almost the entire surface of Krynn. A three-hundred year depression follows this event, in what is called the Age of Despair. This period also marks the War of the Lance. When Dragonlance was first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons, events such as the Lost Wars happened during The Age of Despair. Later Age of Mortals novels and game supplements took Krynn into the Fifth Age (the Age of Mortals).
Dragonlances are weapons first created in the Third Dragon War, designed with the purpose of killing evil dragons, and are the only weapons with which mortals who cannot use magic can kill dragons. Dragonlances have this power because of the way in which they are created, which requires the use of "two god-blessed artifacts".
Dragonlances are rare and not commonly traded. There are lesser dragonlances, which are made when only one of the artifacts is used to create them, and greater dragonlances, which are made when both artifacts are used to make them. Greater dragonlances are blessed with the power of Good, unlike lesser dragonlances.
There are two sizes of dragonlance. The smaller footman's dragonlance is around eight feet long and functions as a pole weapon, while the larger mounted dragonlance is around sixteen feet long and most commonly used when mounted on a dragon.
The Heroes of the Lance are the protagonists of the Chronicles trilogy, the first series of Dragonlance books. They were created by Weis and Hickman, then fleshed out as player characters in gaming sessions of Dungeons & Dragons at Hickman's apartment. One player at this initial gaming session was game designer Terry Phillips, who was playing as Raistlin. According to Hickman in the foreword to The Soulforge, "[we] were just settling in to the game when I turned to my good friend Terry Phillips and asked what his character was doing. Terry spoke...and the world of Krynn was forever changed. His rasping voice, his sarcasm and bitterness all masking an arrogance and power that never needed to be stated suddenly were real. Everyone in the room was both transfixed and terrified. To this day Margaret [Weis] swears that Terry wore the black robes to the party that night."
Several other Heroes of the Lance were played by various people. Authors Gary and Janet Pack played the half-elf Tanis Half-Elven and the kender , respectively. Author Douglas Niles played the dwarf Flint Fireforge. TSR employee Harold Johnson played the Solamnic knight Sturm Brightblade. The rest of the Heroes are the barbarians Goldmoon and Riverwind, elf Laurana Kanan, and humans Caramon Majere (Raistlin's brother) and Tika Waylan. Weis played Fizban the Fabulous.
In the beginning, Margaret Weis had problems depicting Tanis Half-Elven in the novels. Tracy Hickman finally told her "He's James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise." After that explanation, Margaret had no more difficulty writing about Tanis. Other noteworthy antagonists, and sometimes protagonists, are the Death Knight Lord Soth and Kitiara Uth Matar, the half-sister of Raistlin and Caramon, and leader of one of the Dragonarmies of Ansalon. According to Hickman, Lord Soth is the most unpredictable character to write about, saying "Every time that character made an appearance in one of our books he would try to run off with the story."