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DesignersLawrence Schick, Tom Moldvay, Dave Cook, Frank Mentzer, Bruce Heard, Aaron Allston, Ann Dupuis, et al.
ChanceDice rolling

Mystara is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role playing game. It was the default setting for the "Basic" version of the game throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Most adventures published for the "Basic" edition of D&D take place in "The Known World", a central continent that includes a varied patchwork of both human and non-human realms. The human realms are based on various real-world historical cultures. In addition, unlike other D&D settings, Mystara had ascended immortal beings instead of gods.[1]

The Mystara planet also has sub-settings. The older Blackmoor setting was retconned to exist in Mystara's distant past. The Hollow World refers to the inner surface contained within the world of Mystara, similar to the real world legends of the Hollow Earth, while some adventures take place on the Savage Coast, a 2,000 mile long frontier coastline about 2,000 miles to the west of the Known World.

By the mid-1990s, gamers' attention started to shift towards the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and its official campaigns. Some Mystara adventures for AD&D were published between 1994 and 1996. Eventually, official support of the Mystara setting was transitioned to the Official Fan Site system wherein the Vaults of Pandius fansite was selected to become the official site for the future 3rd edition of Mystara, and Wizards of the Coast support was discontinued by the time the game's third edition was released in 2000.[2]


Mystara originated as a fantasy world developed by Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay for their own Dungeons & Dragons game sessions from 1974 to 1976. Their original setting consisted of a large continent with fictionalized nations that were based on real-world historical cultures. Inspired by author H. P. Lovecraft and his work in creating a fiction shared universe, Schick and Moldvay named their setting as the "Known World" so it could be expanded upon by other players. Schick then went to work at TSR Hobbies as a designer for D&D and other games. After being promoted to director of the Design Department he brought Moldvay in to join the company as a game designer, around the time when the D&D Expert Set was under development. After being told that they could not use the existing Greyhawk setting, as it was being reserved for only Advanced Dungeons & Dragons products, Schick and Moldvay got approval to instead use their "Known World" as the standard D&D campaign setting.[3]

Schick and Moldvay's "Known World" was used as a semi-generic setting in early adventure modules, first mentioned in Module X1, The Isle of Dread.[4][5] It was then expanded upon in various D&D modules and sources, particularly a series of Gazetteers, many of which originally referred to the setting as "The D&D Game World".[6]: 19  The first published use of the name "Mystara" came in 1991 from Bruce Heard in the Letters section of his Voyage of the Princess Ark series in Dragon magazine.[7] While the name was used in official publications after this, it was not until the conversion to AD&D 2nd Edition in 1994 that products were produced under the Mystara title with the official Mystara logo.

Each part of the D&D Gazetteer series 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.[8]

Trenton Webb for the British Arcane RPG magazine described Mystara as "a traditional Tolkienesque world".[9]

Planet of Mystara[edit]

Three principal land masses are described on Mystara's outer surface: the continent of Brun, the continent of Skothar, the continent of Davania, and 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 were designed to be similar in appearance to the continents of Laurasia and Gondwana on Earth approximately 135 million years ago.

In addition to human races, several archetypal fantasy races were included on Mystara: these include elves, dwarves, halflings, orcs, and dragons.[10]

Nations created for the world 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[10] and the chaotic Alphatian Empire.[11]

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 islands of the Sea of Dawn.[10]

The Known World[edit]

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",[10] plus Norwold, the Isle of Dawn, and (pre Wrath of the Immortals) Alphatia.[11]

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. 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); the Principalities of Glantri, ruled by wizard-princes; the Ethengar Khanate, a Mongol-like society; the merchant-run Republic of Darokin, which is based loosely on the mercantile states of Medieval Italy; the Emirates of Ylaruam; 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;[10] and the Alphatian Empire, ruled by wizards and other spellcasters.[11]

To the distant Northwest of the "Known World", across the Great Waste, lies 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[10] 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. The area is a 2,000 mile long frontier coastline about 2,000 miles to the west of the Known World.

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. The specifics of the "Red Curse" include mutilation of the body and extreme degeneration of physical and mental health. It also imprisons the inhabitants of the region, as debilitating effects result if they leave the cursed area.[12][13]


Savage Coast's 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.[12][13]

Publication history[edit]

The first published information on the area was the module X9 The Savage Coast for Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set. The region was later expanded in Dungeon magazine issues #6 and 7 (1987) with the adventure "Tortles of the Purple Sage".

Two series in Dragon Magazine, "The Princess Ark" and the "Known World Grimoire", described the Savage Coast in more detail. These articles were partially reprinted in the D&D game accessory Champions of Mystara (1993).[14]

The Savage Coast in 1994 was spun off into a campaign setting for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition). This area was published in its own boxed set entitled Red Steel, and later republished online as the Savage Coast. An expansion, Savage Baronies, was released the next year. These supplements were for AD&D 2nd edition, as all the previous material had been for the "Classic" version of D&D.

In 1996 the setting was revised and re-released under the AD&D: Odyssey line as three fully online products available for free download.[15] This range included the base Savage Coast Campaign Book by Tim Beach and Bruce Heard, a supplement Savage Coast: Orc's Head, and a Monstrous Compendium Appendix.

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]

Mystara is a hollow planet, with a habitable surface on its interior called the Hollow World.[10] 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.


Two moons orbit the planet. Matera is a moon much like our own, whose phases govern lycanthropy (werewolves, werebears, etc.).[10] 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.


Mystara (like Greyhawk) 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 entire planet.

Mystara video games[edit]

Mystara video games
1992D&D: Order of the Griffon
D&D: Warriors of the Eternal Sun
1993Fantasy Empires
D&D: Tower of Doom
1996D&D: Shadow over Mystara

Five video games were set in Mystara, and they span three different genres. Order of the Griffon (TurboGrafx 16, 1992) and Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun (Sega Genesis, 1992) are role-playing video games. Fantasy Empires (PC, 1993) is a strategy game. The plots and development teams of these games are unrelated.

Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (1993) and its sequel Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara (1996) are two arcade beat 'em up with minimal role-playing elements. These two games are among the few D&D video games developed by a Japanese company, in this case by Capcom.


  • Timothy Brown (October 1995), Dark Knight of Karameikos (ISBN 0-7869-0307-4)
  • Morris Simon (August 1996), The Black Vessel (ISBN 0-7869-0507-7)

First Quest[edit]

Dragonlord Chronicles[edit]

Penhaligon Trilogy[edit]

Source material[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons BECMI rules[edit]

These rulebooks are designed for the BECMI edition of Basic D&D by Frank Mentzer.[17]

Code Title Levels Author(s) Published Notes
1011 Basic Set[a][18] 1–3 Frank Mentzer 1983 Introduced the player character (PC) basic adventurer process. Module B2, The Keep on the Borderlands, had previously been included and would later be set in the Atlan Tepe Mountain region of Northern Karameikos.
1012 Expert Rules[18][19] 4–14 Frank Mentzer 1983 The first of several expansions, it described the player character (PC) expert adventurer's progression process. Since 1981, the module X1 The Isle of Dread[4] was included in the set as an example of an outdoor adventure in the Known World[3] that became the Mystara setting.
1013 Companion Rules[20] 15–25 Frank Mentzer 1984 The Companion Rules further expanded what the PCs could do as they became rulers and influential adventurers. The Dungeon Master's Companion book contains three mini-scenarios set explicitly in Mystara. It introduced the "War Machine"[21] mechanics for large-scale battles in high level campaigns.
1021 Master Rules[22] 26–36 Frank Mentzer 1985 The Master Rules expansion explored how the PCs could run small empires and have an impact upon the Mystaran campaign setting. It also outlined how to progress even further.
1017 Immortal Rules[23] 36+ Frank Mentzer 1986 The expansion in the Immortals Rules provided a guide for PCs that had transcended normal adventurer dynamics and would now advance in ranks as they explored the multiverse system. Notes and sample plots for Immortal adventures and campaigns were provided, including duties and responsibilities related to the PCs' new status in the Mystara setting.[24]
1071 Rules Cyclopedia[25] 1–36 Aaron Allston 1991 Combined the first four of the BECMI boxsets as a single hardcover book. Includes an appendix briefly describing the Mystara/Hollow World Gazetteers (AC1000). Includes an updated conversion to AD&D 2nd Edition previously published in 1989's Dawn of the Emperors.

Notable adventure modules[edit]

Code Title Levels Author(s) Published Notes
X1 The Isle of Dread 3–7 1981 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
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 Jennell Jaquays[b] 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 1988  
GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar Bruce Heard 1988 Includes Orc Wars boardgame.
GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin 1989  
GAZ12 The Golden Khan of Ethengar Jim Bambra 1989  
1037 Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia Aaron Allston 1989 Boxed set; includes AD&D 2nd Edition conversion.
GAZ13 The Shadow Elves 1990  
GAZ14 The Atruaghin Clans William W. Connors 1991  
1082 Wrath of the Immortals Aaron Allston 1992 The Codex of the Immortals rulebook includes a chapter describing all the immortal NPCs in Mystara. The Immortals' Fury campaign adventure saga is set in Mystara. It also advanced the timeline to AC1010 and included an update to the previous Immortal rules.
1094 Champions of Mystara: Heroes of the Princess Ark 1993 A summation of Princess Ark adventures from Dragon (magazine) that further explored the Hollow World, Mystara, and both her moons. It also explained how to connect with the Spelljammer setting, thus the ability to explore the various AD&D settings.

Dungeons & Dragons Trail Maps[edit]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
TM1 Western Countries Trail Map 1989  
TM2 Eastern Countries Trail Map 1989  

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 Adaptable to AD&D 2nd Edition.

Dungeons & Dragons Hollow World[edit]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
1054 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
TSR 2500 Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure Jeff Grubb, Aaron Allston, Thomas M. Reid 1994 Boxed Set
TSR 2511 Glantri: Kingdom of Magic Monte Cook, Bruce A. Heard 1995 Boxed Set
TSR 2502 Hail the Heroes Tim Beach 1994 Adventure Boxed Set
TSR 2509 Night of the Vampire L. Richard Baker III 1994 Adventure Boxed Set
TSR 2513 Mark of Amber Aaron Allston, Jeff Grubb and John D. Rateliff 1995 Adventure Boxed Set
TSR 2510 Player's Survival Kit John D. Rateliff 1995 Accessory
TSR 2512 Dungeon Master Survival Kit Steven Schend 1995 Accessory
TSR 2506 Poor Wizard's Almanac III & Books of Facts Ann Dupuis 1994 Accessory
TSR 2517 Joshuan's Almanac & Book of Facts Ann Dupuis, Elizabeth Tornabene 1995 Accessory
TSR 2501 Monstrous Compendium Appendix Mystara John Nephew, John Terra, Skip Williams, Teeuwynn Woodruff 1994 Accessory

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Red Steel[edit]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
TSR 2504 Red Steel Campaign Expansion Tim Beach 1994 Accessory & Boxed Set
TSR 9500 Savage Baronies Tim Beach 1995 Accessory & Adventure

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Odyssey: Savage Coast[edit]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
TSR 2521 Savage Coast Campaign Book Tim Beach, Bruce Heard 1996 Accessory
TSR 2522 Savage Coast Orc's Head Peninsula Sourcebook Nicky Rea 1996 Accessory
TSR 2524 Savage Coast Monstrous Compendium Appendix Loren L. Coleman, Ted James, Thomas Zuvich 1996 Accessory


  1. ^ Previous 'boxset' versions by John Eric Holmes (in 1977), and later by David 'Zeb' Cook (in 1981) were in a generic 'Known World' setting.
  2. ^ Credited as Paul Jaquays.


  1. ^ "The Case For Mystara in 5e D&D". RPG MUSINGS. 2014-12-17. Retrieved 2024-05-13.
  2. ^ "Vaults of Pandius, the official 3.x site for Mystara". pandius.com. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  3. ^ a b "The 'Known World' D&D Setting: A Secret History". Black Gate. 7 February 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  4. ^ a b Cook, David; Moldvay, Tom (1981). The Isle of Dread. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-935696-30-X.
  5. ^ Witwer, Michael; Newman, Kyle; Peterson, Jonathan; Witwer, Sam; Manganiello, Joe (October 2018). Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: a visual history. Ten Speed Press. p. 131. ISBN 9780399580949. OCLC 1033548473.
  6. ^ Appelcline, Shannon (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
  7. ^ Heard, Bruce (September 1991). "Voyage of the Princess Ark". Dragon. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR, Inc. (#173): 44
  8. ^ Rolston, Ken (January 1988). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon (#129). Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR, Inc.: 83–84.
  9. ^ Webb, Trenton (March 1996). "Games Reviews". Arcane (4): 70.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Grubb, Jeff; Allston, Aaron; Reid, Thomas M. (1994). Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-853-3.
  11. ^ a b c Allston, Aaron (1989). Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-88038-736-X.
  12. ^ a b Beach, Tim (1994). Red Steel Campaign Expansion. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-895-9.
  13. ^ a b Beach, Tim; Heard, Bruce (1996). Savage Coast Campaign Book. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-7869-0379-1.
  14. ^ "Reviews". Archived from the original on 2009-05-02. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  15. ^ "Previous Edition Dungeons & Dragons Downloads". Archived from the original on 2004-09-16. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  16. ^ Kenson, Stephen (March 1999). "Profiles: J. Robert King". Dragon (#257). Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast: 120.
  17. ^ Appelcline, Shannon. "D&D Basic Set – DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)". DriveThruRPG. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  18. ^ a b "The History of TSR". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-09-24. Retrieved 2005-08-20.
  19. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson [1974], edited by Frank Mentzer. Dungeons & Dragons Set 2: Expert Rules (TSR, 1983)
  20. ^ Mentzer, Frank. Dungeons & Dragons Set 3: Companion Rules (TSR, 1984)
  21. ^ "Dungeoneering and the Art of War | Dungeons & Dragons". Wizards of the Coast.
  22. ^ Gygax, Gary, Frank Mentzer. Dungeons & Dragons Set 4: Master Rules (TSR, 1985)
  23. ^ Mentzer, Frank. Dungeons & Dragons Set 5: Immortal Rules (TSR, 1986)
  24. ^ Davis, Graeme (November 1986). "Open Box: Master Rules". White Dwarf 83 (review). Games Workshop.
  25. ^ Allston, Aaron, Steven E. Schend, Jon Pickens, and Dori Watry. Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (TSR, 1991)

External links[edit]