Runes, Heroes, and Legends
A Look Back at 25 Years of Terrinoth
Android. Arkham Horror. Twilight Imperium. There are many game universes that Fantasy Flight Games has proudly held in its repertoire throughout the years. But few of those universes are as old—or as storied—as Terrinoth, now known as Terrinoth Legends.
How well do you know the history of the Terrinoth setting? Did you know that it’s been around for 25 years? Join us today as we take a brief glimpse at the long and rich story of the games that brought us to The Betrayer’s War today.
1998 – Battlemist
The very first game in this universe was a board game called Battlemist, which was created to be a classic fantasy counterpart to the original Twilight Imperium. It was actually the third game FFG ever published, after Twilight Imperium and a little one-off game called Golf Mania. In this game, players took command of one of several different factions in a lengthy adventure that saw them seeking artifacts known as the Stars of Timorran. While the factions were fairly generic at the time—they were simply called “knights,” “barbarians,” “elves,” etc.—they would remain the baseline for what was to come. There was even a being in this game known as the Dark One, who was the inspiration for Waiqar the Undying (a recurring villain that appears in many later Terrinoth games).
1999 – Diskwars
Just one year after Battlemist, FFG published its second game in its yet-to-be-named fantasy setting: Diskwars. A rather unique game described as a “miniatures wargame without the miniatures,” Diskwars started adding a bit of history and lore to the factions that were established in Battlemist. The generic “barbarians” from Battlemist were now called the “Uthuk Y’llan,” the “dwarves” were now the “Dunwarr Dwarves,” and the “elves” were now the “Lathari Elves.” The name “Daqan” became associated with the “knights” faction, and the time period that the game took place in was referred to as the First Darkness. Any fans of the Terrinoth Legends setting today should recognize all of these names—in fact, players of Descent: Legends of the Dark should recognize the First Darkness as a piece of ancient Terrinoth history. In Diskwars, you could actually play through that history!
2003 – Frenzy
After Diskwars, FFG would not see any games appear in its fantasy setting for a few years. Then, in 2003, we released a card game called Frenzy. While there was very little plot or lore involved in this game, it did feature a return of four of the factions from Battlemist: the Knights, the Orcs, the Undead, and the Dwarves. It also used some of the same art and visual design elements as the other “proto-Terrinoth” games.
2004 – Runebound
A year later, FFG released Runebound. This game would have lasting effects on the Terrinoth setting for every game to come, including the name “Terrinoth” itself—this was the first game to actually give a name to the land that the adventures took place in. However, contrary to what you may believe, this game was not actually explicitly connected to Battlemist, Diskwars, or Frenzy—instead, it was its own “branch” of fantasy within FFG.
While Runebound did not reference any of the named factions from the games that preceded it, it did introduce many locations, such as the Free Cities, and historical events, such as the Dragon Wars, which are still recognizable in Terrinoth Legends games today.
One interesting story for Runebound is that it was originally going to be a collectible card game. However, during development, the CCG idea was scrapped and it was changed to be a board game. Much of the art had already been commissioned, so the “hero characters” that would have been a part of the CCG instead became the heroes of the board game. While the CCG version separated the heroes into “good heroes” and “evil heroes,” all of the board game characters were just “heroes.” Because of this, the orc heroes—which would have been villains in the CCG—ended up becoming regular heroes like their counterparts, and it is because of this happy accident that orcs are simply another group of people in Terrinoth today—neither inherently good nor inherently evil, just people.
2005 – Descent: Journeys in the Dark
Hot off the heels of Runebound came Descent: Journeys in the Dark. While Runebound was more of a large-scale, epic adventure, Descent was more of a traditional dungeon-crawler with a one-versus-all system of gameplay. While not explicitly stated, it was implied that this game took place in the same setting as Runebound, since it featured the same heroes, items, and rune magic as the previous game.
While the story element of this version of Descent was a little on the thinner side, this was the original version of the game that would one day evolve into Descent: Legends of the Dark from this year.
2008 – Descent: The Road to Legend
Three years after the first edition of Descent: Journeys in the Dark released, FFG released its large-scale campaign expansion titled The Road to Legend. This expansion officially tied Descent to the Terrinoth setting, and even went as far as to expand on it. It used the same map of the land as was featured in Runebound, and many of the locations and characters introduced in the expansion are still referenced today. It even gave more character to the individual Free Cities—whereas before each city was more or less the same, Descent: The Road to Legend is when they started to gain their own individual identities and could provide their own services. For example, Frostgate was established to be a city of mining and manufacturing while Greyhaven became much more of an academic city and hub for magic.
2010 – Runewars
Then, in 2010, perhaps the most important game in establishing the history of Terrinoth Legends was released: Runewars.
Originally concepulized as a way to “revive” Battlemist under modern game design philosophy, Runewars grew into a game that not only revamped the original, Twilight Imperium-inspired gameplay, but also officially consolidated all of FFG’s previously released fantasy-setting games into one connected universe: Terrinoth. Before this game, Runebound and Descent were part of their own setting while Battlemist, Diskwars, and Frenzy were part of a different one, albeit similar in design and themes. Runewars took the elements from both “franchises” and combined them all into one package, and much of what modern Terrinoth Legends games take for granted was established by this merge.
For example, four of Terrinoth Legends’ primary factions were revamped and expanded upon in this game: the Daqan Lords, the Latari Elves, the Uthuk Y’llan, and the legions of Waiqar the Undying. The basis of these factions was drawn from Battlemist and Diskwars, and their associated locations and holdings were pulled from Runebound and Descent, such as the Free Cities being allied with the Daqan Lords. All in all, Runewars is incredibly important to the story of Terrinoth Legends as a whole, and the rich lore of Descent: Legends of the Dark owes much of its origin to this iconic game.
2011 – Rune Age
A year later, Rune Age entered the scene. This was a fairly unique deckbuilding game that featured the same four factions as Runewars and continued to build upon and utilize the world elements that were established in that game. Rune Age even took it a step further by reintroducing the Dunwarr Dwarves and the Orcs of the Broken Plains in its expansion, Oath and Anvil. These two factions hadn’t been seen since Diskwars, and while they were originally planned to be added to Runewars, development of that game unfortunately did not make it that far. Still, the two factions were brought back to life in Rune Age and have remained major players within the setting of Terrinoth Legends ever since.
2012 – Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition
Just one year after Rune Age, we saw a return of Descent: Journeys in the Dark with the release of its second edition. This revamped version of the classic dungeon-crawler expanded on everything introduced in the first edition, with new heroes, scenarios, mechanics, and stories.
This edition also introduced a companion app—named Road to Legend in honor of the first edition’s big campaign expansion—that could assume the role of the “overlord” player, allowing everyone to play a fully-cooperative adventure instead of the traditional one-versus-all style of gameplay. This was the first instance of an app assisting with gameplay in the Terrinoth Legends franchise, and the concepts introduced here would later be greatly expanded upon later with Descent: Legends of the Dark almost ten years later.
2017 – Runewars Miniatures Game
Then, in 2017, the Runewars Miniatures Game released. While it shared part of its name with the classic Runewars board game from seven years prior, the Runewars Miniatures Game was a very different game and brought a lot to the Terrinoth Legends setting on its own. It once again only featured four factions—the Daqan Lords, the Latari Elves, the Uthuk Y’llan, and the hordes of Waiqar the Undying. However, more effort was put into developing the factions themselves this time around, including dedicated concept art to help shape the character designs and visual motifs, and more attention was given to fleshing out a narrative history and depth to each faction.
Just like the original Runewars, there were two additional factions that would have one day been added to the Runewars Miniatures Game: a revamped version of the Dunwarr Dwarves, and a dragon faction called “the Disciples of Margath” (Margath was the Dragonlord featured in Runebound’s second and third edition). While these factions never made it to the Runewars Miniatures Game, their stories and history still helped shaped the Terrinoth Legends setting today. It was now established that the Dunwarr Dwarves had stolen rune magic from the dragons, and they fled to the Dunwarr mountains in order to seek refuge from the enraged dragonkind. This provided a much more cohesive origin story for rune magic in the setting, and thus this became the historical origin of rune magic in every Terrinoth Legends game to come. Meanwhile, the dragon faction laid the groundwork for the appearance, culture, and society of the dragons and dragon-hybrids in today’s Descent: Legends of the Dark.
2017 – Legacy of Dragonholt
Also in 2017 came the incredibly-unique Legacy of Dragonholt. This game was the first (and so far only) game designed to utilize FFG’s Oracle system, a system of narrative gameplay that mixed elements of classic tabletop RPGs with those of choice-based adventure stories. This game provided a much-needed opportunity to establish Terrinoth as a believable setting that felt real and inhabited. It gave voices to characters, showed people living their lives, and overall made the world feel more wholistic and lived-in. Dragonholt also played a key role in establishing how spirits work in the Terrinoth Legends setting, so much so that its influence can still be felt in Descent: Legends of the Dark.
Legacy of Dragonholt was also the game that promoted catfolk from beings that were only mentioned in sidenotes to main players within the setting. Before Dragonholt, the only notable catfolk in the franchise was Maliki the Claw, a playable hero in Runebound. Nikki Valens, the lead designer for Dragonholt, loved cat people and wanted to incorporate them into their game. The efforts to develop the catfolk into something more than your “typical” depiction of the race resulted in the hyrrinx subrace being born, and it’s because of this that Chance, one of the main characters of Descent: Legends of the Dark, exists today.
2018 – Heroes of Terrinoth
Next in the tale of Terrinoth Legends came Heroes of Terrinoth, a cooperative adventure card game not too different from FFG’s current Living Card Games. The game featured some of the heroes from Descent: Journeys in the Dark and had its own unique storyline within the setting. While the game itself did not add any major contributions to the Terrinoth Legends setting, some of its art has resurfaced in the backdrops of the game that came after it…
2021 – Descent: Legends of the Dark
As FFG’s largest project to date, Descent: Legends of the Dark was the culmination of the previous 23 years of Terrinoth Legends history. With a story-rich campaign, endearing characters, and deep background lore, this game takes everything in the setting that was established in previous games and expands it into something truly epic in scale.
And that was just the beginning of the legend.
2023 – The Betrayer’s War
Finally, just a few months ago, we launched The Betrayer’s War, the first expansion and second Act for Descent: Legends of the Dark. Picking up where the first Act left off, The Betrayer’s War continues the compelling story of six heroes fighting to save their homeland from more than one massive threat. Featuring a story with multiple twists and turns, dynamic new ways to strengthen the heroes, and legions of enemies to fight, this box took everything established in the first Act (and, by extension, the rest of the Terrinoth Legends line) and expanded it even further. Any fan of Descent, dungeon-crawlers, or fantasy games in general won’t want to miss this epic continuation of the Terrinoth saga.
Across 25 years of history, the Terrinoth Legends universe has proven to be one of FFG’s staples. Whether you’re a newcomer to the game line or a Terrinoth veteran, chances are there’s at least one game in this long and storied franchise for you!