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Images of Davania: A Guide for Almanac Writersby Geoff Gander
About this Document:
Taking a page from James Ruhland, “a valid criticism that is sometimes raised with regard to writing for the Almanac is that events don’t always take into account the distinctiveness of the nation they are set in”. This is no less true for Davania - an entire continent, about which few people in the Known World (or anywhere else, for that matter) know much of anything. Although Davania has very little in the way of “official” information, I believe there are some guidelines that writers should keep in mind when scripting events for the region, or events that may involve it somehow.
1. Size: One thing that distinguishes Davania from most other regions of Mystara is its sheer scale - it is the largest continent on the planet. In that vein, it should come as no surprise that natural landforms - such as mountain range, valleys, deserts, and so forth - can be on scales that dwarf anything seen anywhere else. Great rows of volcanos stretching for longer distances than most Known Worlders can conceive of, towering mountains, seemingly endless deserts and plains - all of these things exist in Davania, and writer should use their imaginations to convey this sense of immensity. This size, once it becomes known to others, might entice various nations to colonise; with all that land seemingly free for the taking, someone, somewhere, is bound to decide that it would be a good idea to grab some land.
2. Antiquity: Davania is not only colossal in size; it is home to many cultures that predate those of the Known World by centuries, or even millennia. The elves, for example, built their first great nations in southern Davania, just as the Milenians founded theirs during the height of Nithia - a time scarcely remembered in Brun. Other cultures have existed there continuously for millennia, sometimes greatly changed by their surroundings, sometimes not. Davania is also the former centre of Mystaran civilisation - ancient Carnifex citadels towered over the landscape, and terrible wars were fought there, some of which made it possible for societies to rise and fall elsewhere. Needless to say, Davania is also home to one of the largest collections of ruins and forgotten artifacts on the planet; wherever one looks, signs of civilisation can be found - some more recognisable than others.
3. Alienness: In addition to being home to some of the most ancient civilisations on Mystara, Davania contains some of the most unique and bizarre cultures and races - at least, to Known World standards. Living near the Thyatian Hinterlands are the exotic Emerondians, who are the descendants of a strange alien race with great affinity for plant life. South of them, on the great Meghala Kimata Plains, live the remnants of the once-mighty Milenian Empire, amidst powerful tribes of rakasta, minotaurs, and other creatures. The Adakkian Mounts contain fearsome secrets within their caverns, and the lizard men of the Amalur Lowlands display a level of sophistication unseen among their cousins in most other places. In the east, the Isle of Cestia contains dark secrets of a lost empire, and in the south the enigmatic Divergans keep watch over their lands. The area I have described - that which lies in the northeastern portion of the continent, is only the tiniest fraction of the continent’s total landmass. There is literally no limit to what might live in Davania. On a related note, Davania remains the home of some more prominent races of Mystara: the gnomes, for example, have several nations on this continent, and have achieved a level of power unseen among their cousins in Brun. This also blends in with the idea of mystery - Davania is a great, strange land; every new culture should be unique in some way, and an experience in itself.
4. Proximity: Take a look at a world map of Mystara. You should see that, contrary to various impressions, Davania is really not all that far away from the Known World - certainly no farther than Bellissaria for some nations. For others, such as Ierendi or Darokin, Davania is actually closer than such places as the eastern Isle of Dawn, Norwold, or Alphatia. Coastal nations, in particular, might actually be interested in what is going on in Davania, especially those interested in exploration, who might see the southern continent as a great land of opportunity. Looking at it from the other perspective, many Davanians (at least in the north) are becoming increasingly aware of Brun and its civilisations. The Thyatians have been a presence for almost 30 years now, and word has spread of the strange places that lie north, across the Sea of Dread. Those outward-looking cultures might actually begin striving to make contact on their own, or they might react to explorers with open curiosity - albeit one tinged with a sense that there might be something to be gained.
5. Civilisation: Contrary to the initial impressions of explorers, Davania is not filled with grass huts and spear-wielding tribesmen with a penchant for driving bones through their nostrils. It was home to some of the most sophisticated cultures Mystara has ever seen, and their legacies have not been entirely forgotten. Thus, with its great size and its long history, Davania hosts a number of cultures who, socially (if not technologically) speaking, are at least in the same league as those of the Known World. What perhaps accentuates the continent’s uniqueness is the sheer contrast in development - prosperous Milenian city-states can thrive amidst nomadic rakasta tribes, the disciplined Divergans engage in frequent battles against the local gnomish clans, while the enigmatic Snartans seek to expand their own lands, and let’s not forget the Citadel, centre of technomantic learning. There really is no limit to the technological levels that may be found here. Likewise, the Davanian cultures may also have considerable knowledge of magic - the Milenian city-states of the Meghala Kimata Plains, for example, might have preserved ancient Milenian spells, the likes of which are unknown in the Known World. Just as easily, some cultures might have little or no magic; the scale of power is open-ended, with plenty of room for variation. All this is to say that it is not a sure thing that, when they encounter Davanians, Known World visitors will immediately awe the natives; it could very well be the other way around!
6. Opportunity: Like Norwold, Davania is a “land of opportunity”. Those enterprising souls with courage and tenacity can be the first people to open trade routes with newly discovered exotic port cities, and cut themselves a nice amount of profit in the process. Being home to many strange (by Known World standards) cultures, Davania is the source of many exotic spices, foods, drinks, and other goods that could be totally unknown elsewhere. Not only is there opportunity in terms of goods; as mentioned earlier, those who know of Davania know it to be a great continent, one so large that an explorer could lose him- or herself easily within its landmass, and never be seen again. Nations could see the continent as fertile ground for lucrative colonies, as well. Just as likely, outward-looking Davanian nations (such as Kastelios, to name but one example) could see the nations of the Known World as potential markets for their own products, or as sources of goods that are unavailable at home. All this produces the possibility of conflict, as well as new contacts between different races and cultures.
7. Not Under Anyone’s Thumb: I see Davania as one of the “last great unspoiled territories” - one of the regions of the world (along with Skothar) that has remained largely free of involvement from imperial powers bent on global domination. The Thyatian presence here has been a relatively recent one (compared with the continent’s overall history), and even so, Thyatis is expanding prudently, ensuring that its hold on those lands it already possesses is secure. Alphatia’s presence here, if any, is pretty much nonexistent. As a result, the various races and nations of Davania have been free to develop on their own, by and large, surviving or dying on their own merits. Personally, I think this feel ought to be preserved - outside powers might move in and colonise portions of the continent, but it will not be an easy task, nor will the native Davanians stand by and let outsiders take over everything. One should also keep in mind colonial rivalries - just as Thyatis and Alphatia conducted many wars over their colonies in Ylaruam, so could a similar scenario take place in Davania. As much as possible, I would like to prevent large-scale colonisation from taking place, at least not without heavy losses to the coloniser.
8. Putting it all together: When we take all of these elements into consideration, we can present Davania as a great continent, full of unknown history, and home to bizarre races and cultures, the likes of which few Known Worlders will have ever seen. Davania should also be seen as a rich land, full of wealth in terms of culture and resources, and, to those who know of it, a potential jewel in any colonial empire. What makes Davania even more special is the fact that, for all its mystique, it lies across the Sea of Dread from the Known World, within reach, tantalisingly close...a veritable paradise for explorers and adventurers, but one which contains its own dangers.