Might and Magic is a series of RPG games created by New World Computing. There are several tie-in games and game series including the Heroes of Might and Magic strategy games and other spinoff titles.
There are essentially two sets of continuity within the series: the "Ancient Universe" and the "Ubisoft Continuity." The Ancient Universe is the original continuity created by 3DO and New World Computing before they went under in 2003, and then the Ubisoft Continuity which is everything after Ubisoft bought the rights to the games.
Here are some of the key world building/setting aspects of the game's history to better understand the universe of Might and Magic.
The Ancients and the Silence
The Ancient Universe of Might and Magic is called so because of a key premise in the games that the Might and Magic universe is deeply affected by the actions of a technologically and magically advanced race called the Ancients. The Ancients are not seen much through the games, but their fingerprints are everywhere. In fact many of the worlds the Might and Magic series takes place in are actually "artificial nacelle environments" created specifically by the Ancients for their own reasons. The planets that were not directly created by the Ancients were colonized and cultivated, with the Ancients granting these underdeveloped worlds technology, magic, and guidance. The Ancients also setup a massive communication network called The Web of Worlds that connected every planet together via magical-technological communication means as well as magic portals. They traversed the universe in spaceships that ran on technology and elemental magic (a core staple of the Ancients' civilization), created powerful world-destroying weapons with artifacts known as the "Heavenly Forges," and built sentient robots called Guardians to maintain order in the worlds and defend against the Ancients' ancient enemy: the Creators.
Not much is known about the Creators. They are mentioned in MM3 as being another supremely technologically and magically advanced race who, for some reason, hate the Ancients and construct "plots and create vile chaotic armies to disrupt the civilizations of the Ancients." So terrible are the Creators that the Ancients colonize and cultivate the world of Enroth specifically to test how the Creators' magic works, and to see if they can develop "Heroes" who can defend against it. The Ancients become the center of Enroth's religion and lore, and this time of open communication is called The Time of Wonders and it takes place "before the Silence" or "BS."
As you can probably guess, this golden age did not last forever. Another technologically and magically advanced race of chaotic void-faring aliens arrives on scene: the Kreegan. Unlike the Creators who are only mentioned in passing, the Kreegan become recurring villains for the core RPG series. The Kreegan are demonic-looking warmongers who thrive off chaos and breed so quickly and numerously that they use up the resources of any planet they come in contact with and then set off to find new planets to continue the cycle. The Ancients, being the nice guys they are, think at first they can reason with the Kreegan. The Kreegan respond by attacking the outlying worlds colonized/created by the Ancients and destroying the Web of Worlds, rendering Ancient technology useless and stopping any chance of communication with the Ancient homeworlds.
The time after losing communication with the Ancients is called "After the Silence" or "AS."
The ancients were unable to reestablish contact thanks to continued attacks by the Kreegan, and without the Ancients to guide them or supply them with technology, and with their current technology now rendered useless, the outlying worlds devolved into barbarism.
At the same time as all of this, another story was happening:
In Enroth, a group of bandits raided an Ancient Forge and stole weapon of mass destruction. They passed through the city-state of Aliant without fully realizing what they had, and were promptly arrested. The mayor, who is only known as Alan, took the weapon for safekeeping, figuring that while he wasn't sure he should have it, he was definitely sure those guys shouldn't have it. Alan was, by most accounts, a decent guy who always put the needs of his people before his own. . . until this ONE time.
Not long after, the mayor's young and beautiful daughter Alanna was brutally murdered outside of city hall. Alan received word that the members of his council were the ones behind the murder and ordered their executions out of hand. One of them was caught and put to death, but the other four ran to the neighboring nation of Vissias and pleaded for sanctuary. Alan and his small army (including his son, Michael) show up, Vissias refused to hand over the remaining four council members and a fight happens. At the end of the fight, Michael is dead. Mayor Alan, overcome with grief and rage, unleashes the Ancient weapon he has and promptly wiped everything within a 500 mile radius off the map. Not only are the two armies gone, but so are the entire nations of Vissias and Aliant. In their place is an empty and poisoned wasteland that would become the Dragonsand Desert and the Mire of the Damned in MM6.
In-story, the people of Enroth have no idea about the Kreegan or the Web of Worlds being destroyed, so they figure that the Ancients have abandoned them because of Alan's actions.
All of the Might and Magic games take place after the Silence, though not always on the same planet. The main playable worlds in the Ancient Universe continuity of Might and Magic are:
The first game in the series, Might and Magic Book One: Secret of the Inner Sanctum takes place on the world Varn. Varn is not a true planet, but a "Vehicular Astropod Research Nacelle" --one of the environments created by the Ancients. In fact, it is actually called VARN-4, and the spacecraft the world is on is also home to another world, CRON.
Central Research Observational Nacelle, or "Cron" or "CRON"-- is the world where the second game takes place. CRON bears slightly more relevance to the series as a whole than VARN because CRON is where the Elemental Lords originate. More on them later.
Terra is the setting of the third game, and it significant because it's where a core character in games 1-5, Sheltem, originates. Like, Varn and Cron, Terra is another world that the Ancients have concocted, with the islands on the planets surface actually having been shipped in from another location heavily hinted at being CRON.
Xeen, or " the Xylonite Experimental Environment Nacelle" is the setting of the fourth and fifth game, and like Varn, Cron, and Terra, it is an artificial nacelle world. An innovative characteristic of the Xeen world is that it actually spans over two worlds: Xeen, and the Darkside of Xeen, which is a dark underbelly dimension attached to the world and accessible via portals should you have both games installed on your hard drive at the same time.
Enroth is the setting for games six through eight, as well as the original Heroes of Might and Magic series.
Enroth is my hands down favorite, and due to the number of games behind it it has more world development than any of the others, with recurring side characters and family lines, different continents, and more cohesive wold building. There are three main continents on the world of Enroth: the continent Enroth, the continent Antagarich, and the continent Jadame.
Axeoth is the setting for the ninth and final RPG in the Ancient Continuity.
I don't like talking about nine.
Because most games take place after the Silence, the Ancients themselves are never seen. However, their Guardians, spaceships, and weaponry are still floating around causing trouble and drive the plot for most of the games.
The Elemental Lords and CRON
One of the major universe-changing events that took place before the Silence include the creation of the Elemental Lords and CRON
The Elemental Lords are, well, lords of elementals. Elementals are spirits of Air, Earth, Water and Fire, and these guys originated in an Ancient experimental biome called CRON, or the Central Research Observational Nacelle. CRON is basically a world on an enormous, planet-sized spacecraft, and it was specifically created to test the Ancients' control of elemental magic.
The elementals of water and their lord, Acwalandar, were the first to form into existence. Sixty years later, the air elementals and their leader, Shalwend, come into being, and immediately both sides start fighting. For over a hundred years these two are at each others' throats until Acwalandar gets the bright idea to try making superior magical weapons. His experiments succeeded, and the water elementals wind up summoning the first fire elementals into existence. The fire elementals were borderline insane and driven only by the urge to destroy, and they managed to drive the air elementals back, but couldn't dispatch them entirely due to their sheer numbers. Obviously fire and water don't mix, and the few fire elementals there suffered for eighty years as slaves to the water elementals before their leader, Pyrannaste, launched a rebellion. He stopped his elementals from fighting with Air and focused their attention against Water.
For another fifty years, it was a free for all with everyone attacking each other until Gralkor the Cruel and his band of earth elementals invaded CRON and took over all three of the other elemental nations. Gralkor's earth elementals formed the landmass of CRON and Gralkor enslaved air, water, and fire to his bidding, basically using them to terraform the new planet they'd created.
After a hundred years of toil, portal-faring and space-faring mortals (humans, elves, dwarves, and gnomes) started to arrive and colonize the place. Gralkor noticed this and tried to wipe them out, but the mortals were far tougher than he had anticipated: most were made of water, and while water could drown them, it took a lot of water to make that happen. Air was useless since it just swooshed past them. Fire could hurt them, but unless it killed them all in one go, they could heal (which was unheard of), and they tilled and mined the earth as though it were nothing. Worst of all, they had magic that he was unfamiliar with that they used to do whatever the frig they wanted and made the "planet" their own.
This is actually where the timeline gets iffy; CRON is the setting of the second game, and supposedly all the games, including these first ones, were supposed to be taking place after the Silence. However, when you do the math you see that CRON was created by the elemental lords after the silence ( As seen in this timeline), which is impossible because the mortals that settle CRON wouldn't have been able to traverse worlds with their Ancient technology. Likewise, it is a plot point in the later games that the Elemental Lords created the planet of Enroth ten thousand years before the Silence. If the elementals themselves came to being on CRON after the Silence, then they couldn't possibly have created Enroth. More than likely this is an error in continuity as the Elementals being older than Enroth is a recurring plot point in the later games, while Elementals being created on CRON only matters in MM2.
At any rate, the Humanoids and Gralkor do battle, and some humanoid wizards create an orb with four talons to hold it to trap Gralkor. Gralkor wiped them out, but the human prince Kalohn used the Orb and Talons to trap all of the elemental lords and seal them off behind magical barriers. Kalohn became known as Kalohn the Conjurer and was made king of CRON.
Gralkor is righteously pissed off by the whole affair and, using magic he stole from the fire elementals, creates the world's first dragon and sent it to kill Kalohn. Kalohn dies bravely fighting the dragon; just as he was about to call down a wall of water to protect himself, the dragon roasted him. However, the spell still triggered and, powered by Kalohn's literal last breath, the water shield kept going, flooding the savannah where he and the dragon were fighting. The dragon, being an elemental creation of fire, couldn't swim and died.
The elemental lords also play a big role in the Heroes Chronicles games where they plan to destroy Enroth and the Barbarian king Tarnum is called on to stop them. The story there is that ten thousand years before the Silence, the elemental lords created Enroth and were directed by "the gods" to stop their war. Once the ten thousand years is over, the four immediately plan to destroy the planet by pulling the elements apart at the seams, and Tarnum and his crew go to the elemental planes to kick their butts.
The elemental planes and unnamed elementals show up again in the penultimate climax of MM8 where the heroes of Jadame must go to the elemental planes to steal the heartstones to create a key to open a giant crystal that's owned by an evil wizard in the middle of town. This makes sense in context.
Sheltem and Corak
Corak and Sheltem are pivotal characters in the early (1-5) games of Might and Magic. The long and short of it is that Sheltem the Dark was a Guardian that had gone renegade, and Corak was the Guardian sent to capture him.
S.H.E.L.T.E.M. Unit Guardian was programmed by the Ancients to oversee the world Terra, however due to some programming errors and botched commands, Sheltem got it into his head that the Ancients themselves were a threat to Terra, and therefore had to be destroyed. On top of that, Sheltem also interpreted the inhabitants of Terra themselves to be threats to Terra. Sheltem's crimes also include hurling other Ancient-made worlds (VARN-6 among them) into their suns in order to disrupt the Ancients' plans.
C.O.R.A.K is a functional Guardian with the express purpose of either capturing Sheltem and returning him to the Ancients' homeworld to be repaired and reprogrammed, or destroying him if he couldn't be captured. In the early games, Corak is often a central figure in starting the heroes' adventure: he arrives on the planet, tells the local heroing party that Sheltem is somewhere inside their world, and they go off looking for him.
Corak and Sheltem's story ends in Might and Magic V: Darkside of Xeen.
Escaton is another Guardian and the final one seen in the main RPG series. He appears in Might and Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer as the titular destroyer. He is a Guardian created with the specific purpose of finding worlds infected by the Kreegan and cleansing or destroying them in order to eliminate the threat Kreegans pose. However, by the time he gets to Enroth, the Kreegan have already been destroyed by assorted groups of heroes through the years.
Unfortunately, though he realizes that Enroth is clear and there's no need for him to be there, his programming won't let him just leave, and he still has to destroy the world. He has started the Cataclysm, or "Convocation" as he calls it; the giant crystal in the center of the town of Ravenshore is a beacon that will compel elementals to open the planes and pour into Enroth, destroying everything they come in contact with.
Escaton then tells the adventurers that, hey, everything he needed to do to set of the Cataclysm has already been done. It's just a matter of waiting. So why don't they stick around and answer some RIDDLES with him? And if they happen to win an artifact that might help stop him, that's okay, because he is not explicitly aware that the heroes know how to use it, right? And if he happens to give away some hints that will aid the heroes in stopping the Convocation, well, it's no big deal because these puny mortals couldn't possibly figure out how to use them, right?
Sources: The MM games and flavor text The Might and magic Wiki (Note: aspects of the wiki are unreliable due to the age and the influence of old MM rumors) The angelfire site where some of the original 3DO website supplementary stories are collected. Back in the day, 3DO posted world building stories and lore on their official website, but that has long since been taken down. This place kept them for austerity, and the wiki has copied most of them over as well.