Mystara

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Mystara
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Designer(s) Dave Cook, Frank Mentzer, Bruce Heard, Aaron Allston, Ann Dupuis, et al.
Publisher(s) TSR Hobbies, Inc., TSR, Inc.
Publication date 1980-1995
Genre(s) Fantasy
System(s) Dungeons & Dragons, AD&D 2nd Edition

Mystara is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role playing game. Although it has officially been dropped from production by its creators, many fans continue to develop this fantasy setting jointly, continuing its original theme of group development.

Development[edit]

It originated as the Known World, a semi-generic setting used in early adventure modules, first mentioned in the Module X1, Isle of Dread,[1] which was expanded upon in various D&D modules and sources, particularly a series of Gazeteers.

Mystara began as several semi-independent projects by different teams of writers who were each assigned to the task of developing different cultures and nations that would exist in the fantasy world that was supported by Dungeons & Dragons at the time. Their work was gathered and compiled, blended, and combined to form a fantasy world, Mystara.

The D&D Gazetteer series details the game's Known World setting. Each Gazetteer treats one nation or empire, and has three basic elements: cultural and geographic background, features, and adventures. The cultural and geographic campaign background section offers a brief history and timeline for each nation; basic geography, climate, and ecology; and, fundamental social and political concepts of the region. Each Gazetteer also offers a list of scenario ideas appropriate to the campaign setting.[2]

Trenton Webb for the British Arcane RPG magazine described Mystara as "a traditional Tolkienesque world".[3]

Mystara Planet[edit]

Mystara's outer surface consists of three principal land masses: the continent of Brun, the continent of Skothar, and the continent of Davania, plus the island continent of Alphatia (up to AC 1010). In the officially published material, the Known World concentrated on the eastern portion of Brun along with the lands of the Sea of Dawn. The continents of Mystara resemble those of the earth approximately 135 million years ago.

The inhabitants of Mystara are diverse: humans of all races can be found here, along with myriad creatures such as elves, dwarves, halflings, orcs, and dragons.[4]

Some of the notable nations of Mystara include the Thyatian Empire, the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, the Principalities of Glantri, the merchant-run Republic of Darokin, the Emirates of Ylaruam, the Dwarven nation of Rockhome, The elven Kingdom of Alfheim, Halfling lands of the Five Shires[4] and the chaotic Alphatian Empire.[5]

The continent of Brun[edit]

The most commonly known land mass on Mystara's outer surface is actually a tiny portion of the continent of Brun itself. In the officially published material, the Known World concentrated on the eastern portion of Brun along with the lands of the Sea of Dawn.[4]

The Known World[edit]

The Known World has cultures and a level of technological development that resemble the Europe of our Earth around the 15th century, but without gunpowder. Nations of the known world display a great range of government types. Some nations are populated entirely by demihumans and/or humanoids. By common convention, the boundaries of the "Known World" are those covered in the world map as originally published in the module X1, The Isle of Dread,[4] plus Norwold, the Isle of Dawn, and (pre Wrath of the Immortals) Alphatia.[5]

As the name implies, the "Known World" covers the most notable nations of Mystara, the ones most commonly used in Mystara-based campaigns and featured in fiction (both officially published "canon" and fan-based). It includes the Thyatian Empire, which could be compared to Byzantine Empire; the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (which includes the town of Threshold, the default setting of many classic D&D adventures), comparable to medieval southeastern Europe; the Principalities of Glantri, which is similar to medieval western Europe, ruled by wizard-princes; the Ethengar Khanate, a Mongol-like society; the merchant-run Republic of Darokin, which is based somewhat loosely on the mercantile states of Medieval Italy; the Emirates of Ylaruam which have an Arabic flavor; the Heldannic Territories, ruled by an order of religious Knights devoted to the Immortal Vanya, similar to the Teutonic Knights; the Atruaghin Clans, which have an Amerindian feel; the nation of Sind, based on India during the rule of the Mughals; the Northern Reaches Kingdoms of Ostland, Vestland, the Soderfjord Jarldoms, based on Scandinavian kingdoms at various periods of history; the Dwarven nation of Rockhome; the elven Kingdom of Alfheim; the Halfling lands of the Five Shires;[4] and the Alphatian Empire, ruled by wizards and other spellcasters.[5]

To the distant Northwest of the "Known World", across the Great Waste, lays the mysterious lands of Hule, ruled by Hosadus, also known as "The Master". Also on the periphery of the Known World are the Kingdoms of Wendar[4] and Denagoth, the first an elven-dominated nation and the latter a mountainous and dark realm of evil, with ill-intentions towards Wendar. The Adri Varma lies between Sind, Wendar, the Great Waste, and The Black Mountains, forming the northern border of Glantri and defining the northwestern limits of the region.

The Savage Coast[edit]

Mystara includes the Savage Coast, a coastal area located in the south central part of the Brun continent, to the south and west of Hule. This part of Mystara is affected by the Red Curse, a sinister enchantment which eventually kills its inhabitants through mutation unless the (fictional) metal cinnabryl is worn in contact with the body. This area was published in its own boxed set entitled Red Steel, and later republished on-line as the Savage Coast. Its swashbuckling flavor is very different from that of the "Known World", closer in atmosphere to that of the Age of Exploration than the fantasy middle-ages/renaissance tone of the Known World. The Savage Coast is complete with gunpowder ("Smokepowder") weaponry.[6][7]

The specifics of the "Red Curse", which include mutilation of the body and extreme degeneration of physical and mental health, also tend to keep the inhabitants of the Savage Coast within the region, as debilitating effects result if they leave the cursed area.[6][7]

The continent of Davania[edit]

Even though most of the Known World civilizations historically originated from this part of the planet, it did not see much development while the Mystara product line was still in production. The only major appearance of the continent was in Dragon magazine, where parts of it were sketched out during the Voyage of the Princess Ark series, by Known World Product Manager Bruce Heard.

In recent years, many Mystara fans have been turning their attention to Davania with fan-made material.

The continent of Skothar[edit]

Very little was officially developed for this part of Mystara. Ever since the Mystara product line was discontinued, fans have created their own material for this part of Mystara.

The Hollow World[edit]

Main article: Hollow World

Mystara is a hollow planet, with a habitable surface on its interior called the Hollow World.[4] This world is lit by an eternal red sun at the center of Mystara, and serves as a "cultural museum," preserving the societies that have become extinct in the outer world. The existence of the Hollow World is not, in general, known to the inhabitants of the outer world. The poles are actually huge, subtly curving holes that allow passage between the outer and inner world, although it is a long, hard trek through a cold, unlit, stormy and anti-magic area. The curvature of the holes is so subtle that explorers from either surface do not notice the transition until after it is already made, causing quite a shock for most.

Moons[edit]

Two moons orbit the planet. Matera is a moon much like our own, whose phases govern lycanthropy (werewolves, werebears, etc.).[4] Only the Immortals inhabit Matera. They live in a city, Pandius, where they can meet and watch over Mystara. Patera, or Myoshima to its inhabitants, is an invisible moon that cannot be seen from Mystara. Patera's inhabitants have a culture similar to that of medieval Japan.

Blackmoor[edit]

Mystara (like Greyhawk) also incorporated the Blackmoor setting by placing it in the world's distant past. Blackmoor evolved from a feudal kingdom into a highly advanced civilization, using more and more powerful—and destructive—technology. It ended itself in an apocalyptic explosion so devastating that it changed the climate and geography of the planet as a whole.

Mystara video games[edit]

Video games set in Mystara include the Capcom arcade Beat 'em up/role-playing video games Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (1993) and Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara (1996). Other Mystara video games are: Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun (Sega Genesis, 1992), Fantasy Empires (PC, 1993), and Order of the Griffon (TurboGrafx 16, 1992).

Novels[edit]

First Quest[edit]

Dragonlord Chronicles[edit]

Penhaligon Trilogy[edit]

Source material[edit]

Notable adventure modules[edit]

Code Title Levels Author(s) Published Notes
X1 The Isle of Dread 3–7 David Cook
Tom Moldvay
1980 Introduces the Known World, the most notable nations of Mystara, and the Sea of Dread and the Thanegioth Archipelago to the south.
X4 Master of the Desert Nomads 6–9 David Cook 1983 Expands the world to the west with the introduction of the Sind Desert and the Great Waste.
X5 Temple of Death 6–10 David Cook 1983 Introduces the land of Hule, further expanding the world to the west.
X6 Quagmire! 4–10 Merle M. Rasmussen 1984 First adventure in the Serpent Peninsula, south of Sind.
X9 The Savage Coast 4–10 Merle M. Rasmussen
Jackie Rasmussen
Anne C. Gray
1985 Introduces the Savage Coast, southwest of Hule.
X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield 10–14 Michael S. Dobson 1985 The politics of the most notable nations and areas of the Known World are further expanded in this adventure.
X11 Saga of the Shadow Lord 5–9 Stephen Bourne 1986 Introduces the Kingdoms of Wendar and Denagoth, north of the most notable nations.
CM1 Test of the Warlords 15+ Douglas Niles 1984 First major adventure in the land of Norwold, northeast of the most notable nations.
M5 Talons of Night 20–25 Paul Jaquays 1987 Adventure in the Isle of Dawn, within the Alphatian Empire.

Dungeons & Dragons Gazetteers[edit]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Aaron Allston 1987  
GAZ2 The Emirates of Ylaruam Ken Rolston 1987  
GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri Bruce Heard 1987  
GAZ4 The Kingdom of Ierendi Anne Gray McCready 1987  
GAZ5 The Elves of Alfheim Steve Perrin 1988  
GAZ6 The Dwarves of Rockhome Aaron Allston 1988  
GAZ7 The Northern Reaches Ken Rolston 1988  
GAZ8 The Five Shires Ed Greenwood 1988  
GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds Deborah Christian
Kim Eastland
1988  
GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar Bruce Heard 1988 Includes Orc Wars boardgame
GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin Scott Haring 1989  
GAZ12 The Golden Khan of Ethengar Jim Bambra 1989  
GAZ13 The Shadow Elves Carl Sargent
Gary Thomas
1990  
GAZ14 The Atruaghin Clans William W. Connors 1991  
Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia Aaron Allston 1989 Boxed set; includes AD&D 2nd Edition conversion

Dungeons & Dragons Creature Crucible[edit]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk John Nephew 1989  
PC2 Top Ballista Carl Sargent 1989  
PC3 The Sea People Jim Bambra 1990  
PC4 Night Howlers Ann Dupuis 1992 Adapatable to AD&D 2nd Edition

Dungeons & Dragons Hollow World[edit]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
Hollow World Campaign Set Aaron Allston 1990 Boxed Set
HWR1 Sons of Azca John Nephew 1991 Accessory
HWR2 Kingdom of Nithia Blake Mobley, Newton Ewell 1991 Accessory
HWR3 The Milenian Empire Anthony Herring 1992 Accessory
HWA1 Nightwail Allen Varney 1990 Adventure
HWA2 Nightrage Allen Varney 1990 Adventure
HWA3 Nightstorm Allen Varney 1991 Adventure
HWQ1 The Milenian Scepter Anthony Herring 1992 Adventure

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Mystara[edit]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure Jeff Grubb, Aaron Allston, Thomas M. Reid 1994 Boxed Set
Glantri: Kingdom of Magic Monte Cook, Bruce A. Heard 1995 Boxed Set
Hail the Heroes Tim Beach 1994 Adventure Boxed Set
Night of the Vampire L. Richard Baker III 1994 Adventure Boxed Set
Mark of Amber Aaron Allston, Jeff Grubb and John D. Rateliff 1995 Adventure Boxed Set
Player's Survival Kit John D. Rateliff 1995 Accessory
Dungeon Master Survival Kit Steven Schend 1995 Accessory
Poor Wizard's Almanac III & Books of Facts Ann Dupuis 1994 Accessory
Joshuan's Almanac & Book of Facts Ann Dupuis, Elizabeth Tornabene 1995 Accessory
Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix John Nephew, John Terra, Skip Williams, Teeuwynn Woodruff 1994 Accessory

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Red Steel[edit]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
Red Steel Campaign Expansion Tim Beach 1994 Accessory
Savage Baronies Tim Beach 1995 Accessory & Adventure

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Odyssey: Savage Coast[edit]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
Savage Coast Campaign Book Tim Beach, Bruce Heard 1996 Accessory
Savage Coast: Orc's Head Nicky Rea 1996 Accessory
Savage Coast Monstrous Compendium Appendix Loren L. Coleman, Ted James, Thomas Zuvich 1996 Accessory

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cook, David; Moldvay, Tom (1981). The Isle of Dread. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-935696-30-X. 
  2. ^ Rolston, Ken (January 1988). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR, Inc.) (#129): 83–84. 
  3. ^ Webb, Trenton (March 1996). "Games Reviews". Arcane (Future Publishing) (4): 70. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Grubb, Jeff; Aaron Allston; Thomas M. Reid (1994). Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-853-3. 
  5. ^ a b c Allston, Aaron (1989). Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-88038-736-X. 
  6. ^ a b Beach, Tim (1994). Red Steel Campaign Expansion. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-895-9. 
  7. ^ a b Beach, Tim; Heard, Bruce (1996). Savage Coast Campaign Book. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-7869-0379-1. 
  8. ^ Kenson, Stephen (March 1999). "Profiles: J. Robert King". Dragon (Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast) (#257): 120. 

External links[edit]

  • Vaults of Pandius Official Campaign Website with most of the current fan based projects
  • Cyclopedia Mystara Mystara in more detail including genealogies, areas, known people, etc.