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Mystara - Before and After
The D&D(r) Game's Version
The World of Mystara(tm) was originally designed as an integral part of the D&D Game (often referred to as the Basic D&D Game). This campaign setting goes back to the revised Expert Rules set, the version published in 1981. It consisted then of more or less three pages of text and about as much of black-and-white maps describing a score of nations and the Village of Threshold where new heroes would presumably start their Expert-Level careers as adventurers. This was the Known World. To date, this is the longest-lived game world created by TSR.
During the following twelve years, the D&D Game line developed this little world with the publication of the best- selling Gazetteers. These 96-page booklets, for the most part, were individually devoted to single nations of the Known World. They provided in-depth studies of these realms, focusing on their unique traits. Today, about fourteen of these accessories have been produced, plus a boxed set covering the Empire of Thyatis and its nemesis, the wizards' Empire of Alphatia. Part of the success of the D&D Gazetteer line in the U.S.A. came from its format. Gazetteers often called for dialogues and narratives to entertain and inform the reader, innovative page presentations, adventures included within the accessories, and poster-sized map sheets of the nations. The latter were greatly-detailed hex maps that precisely connected with each other. Eventually, they led to the release of two huge road maps, each about 11/2 m. high by 1 m. wide, displaying what had been almost a decade ago a modest two-page, black- and-white map of the Known World in the Expert Rules set! In the mean time, the Hollow World feature was added to the world of Mystara, along with its own line of modules and accessories inspired from the Known World Gazetteers.
The D&D Game's World of Mystara was a popular game setting for those who had discovered its wealth of colourful detail, its unique political and magical intricacies, and a vast amount of published information. By the early 1990's more than 2,000 pages-worth of material had been released within the product line, in addition to an impressive array of neat colour map sheets. It wasn't uncommon to see Dungeon Masters adapting the D&D Game world, in whole or in part, to their AD&D(r) Game campaigns. The Known World had the advantage that most AD&D Game players were totally unfamiliar with it - to the great delight of their DMs!
The culmination of the D&D Game's world came with the release of the Rules Cyclopaedia, a single hard-cover book which compiled and packed all 300 pages from various rules sets. The D&D Game had up to five different rules sets at the time, from the Basic to the Master's Sets. This new book provided all these rules from level 1 to 36, spells, monsters, magical items, and even a summary of the World of Mystara. This made the D&D Game more playable, and finally put the Mystara within reach of the players who shunned game conversions.
One of the most recent products designed for the World of Mystara include Wrath of the Immortals. This important campaign adventure portrays a major clash between the Empires of Thyatis and Alphatia, which swept through the entire Known World and beyond. The conflict ended ten game years after the standard era described in the Gazetteers, with Alphatia sinking into the oceans much like mythical Atlantis did. Its biggest contribution to the Mystara is a revision of the old D&D Immortals Set. Wrath of the Immortals provides a complete set of rules to create and role-play the Immortals, entities with god-like powers, either as NPCs quietly pulling the strings of Mystara's backstage, or player characters in the mood to create a new race of followers, or to chew up a few worlds for dinner! One of the "classical" goals of heroes in Mystara is to start as first-level adventurers and complete heroic quests that will perhaps earn them to the keys to true immortality.
The last major product released for the D&D Game was Champions of Mystara. This boxed set provides a compilation of a long series of articles published in TSR's Dragon(r) Magazine from early 1990 to late 1993. The regular magazine feature, called Voyage of the Princess Ark and later The Known World Grimoire told the adventures of a famous Alphatian explorer and his magical flying ship as a way to unveil obscure regions of Mystara. In particular, Champions of Mystara developed a complete set of rules on designing magical flying ships, creating new game settings to explore, and the captain's log book where all of his adventures are told. The captain's tribulations take him far to the west of the Known World, where he unveils clues about the impending war between Thyatis and Alphatia, the Wrath of the Immortals.
The AD&D(r) Game's Version
In July 1994, following a major effort at TSR to simplify the structure its product lines and redirect its marketing focus, it was decided to repackage the World of Mystara for the AD&D Game. Of course, part of the thinking was to preserve this unique game world and make it fully available to TSR's largest customer base. A "home world" that could also be played with both the AD&D Game's First Quest - the long- awaited introduction to the AD&D Game - and the full range of AD&D Game rules was needed. First Quest is an introduction to role-playing, much like the older D&D Basic set was. It is designed, however, specifically for the AD&D Game, and uses audio CD disks as a new tool to help novice Dungeon Masters handle the game and create a unique atmosphere during play. As a result, the new AD&D Game's World of Mystara also becomes the product line spearheading the use of audio CDs as a central game feature. The CDs in the World of Mystara products have a dual goal.
The World of Mystara will see its first release with the Kingdom of Karameikos. Expected around August 1994 in the U.S.A., this is the first in a series of upcoming boxed sets. Karameikos picks up where the D&D Game's Known World stopped, providing an entire campaign set devoted to what was the Grand Duchy of Karameikos before the Great War in Wrath of Immortals. The historical events, famous people, and notorious places that stood as hallmarks of the D&D Game's Known World are still there, freshened up in their post-war era, and rewritten in proper "advancese". The new campaign set will break new grounds with its exquisite graphic design and a very special care toward the colourful detail and mood of Karameikos. It will offer new insights on the links between the noble families, their coats of arms, their rivalries, and the secret societies thriving in the capital city. Kingdom of Karameikos will definitely set a new pace not only for the new World of Mystara, but for all of TSR's campaign accessories. Don't miss that one!
Later this year will follow two audio CD adventures, Hail the Heroes and Night of the Vampire. Design-allowing, the first adventure ties into the first Mystara novel, Dragonlord of Mystara (see novels later in this article) and may unveil a strange artifact hidden in Karameikos. It is thought to have been created by the Hutaakans, a mysterious race of jackal- headed men that disappeared centuries ago. At the time this article was written, Night of the Vampire was taking a group of fearless heroes to an ancient abode. The heroes participate in a masquerade at the old manor-house when the master unexpectedly returns from a long journey. Evidence shows that he is a vampire lord who, as the heroes might soon discover, also has blood ties with King Stephan of Karameikos...
The audio CDs provided in these two adventures, as well as the one in the Kingdom of Karameikos campaign setting, offer essentially adventures. What normally had been boxed text for the DM to read to the players is now provided in audio format in these three products. Other elements, such as introductory narratives and sound effects are also included.
Late in the year, the popular Almanac series continues despite the shift from the D&D Game to the AD&D Game. The original Almanac provided a summarised compilation of the famous places and people of Mystara, along with a whole year's-worth of new events. These went from miscellaneous, minor happenings to annoy and waylay heroes, to historical milestones keeping the campaign world in perpetual motion. Two such Almanacs have already been published in the past years, with the third one continuing the series into the AD&D Game line. The '94 Almanac is perhaps the product among the new AD&D Game line that will initially remain the most familiar to previous D&D Game players. Although the new World of Mystara does not provide two sets of game statistics, one for AD&D Game players and a second for supporters of the D&D Game, the elements it features will, however, remain mostly unchanged. The Almanac is there to prove it.
Of note also is the Red Steel(tm) Campaign Set due for release in the U.S.A. around November 1994. Although not apparently part of the World of Mystara product line, it has a direct connection with it, very much like the Al Qadim(tm) setting had with the Forgotten Realms(r) product line. Red Steel describes a cursed land west of Mystara's Known World, on the far western end of the continent. Red Steel is based upon the unusual setting created in the Princess Ark and Known World Grimoire articles (see the D&D Game's Champions of Mystara earlier).
It is a land that is home to an ancient curse and a magical metal. The Red Curse grants wondrous magical powers to people, but unless they protect themselves, the curse also twists them into hideous parodies of their former selves. Fortunately, the magical metal cinnabryl counteracts the worst effects of the curse and allows people to use the magical powers without harm. Unfortunately, cinnabryl is rather rare, and as it is used its magical power gradually depletes. Cinnabryl must be hunted constantly to hold off the detrimental effects of the Red Curse.
As cinnabryl's protective magic diminishes, it transforms into red steel. Half the weight of regular steel, red steel is just as strong, and is magical as well. It is in high demand for weapons. The more red steel one has, the more power one gets. Red steel and cinnabryl are the focal points of a campaign- wide power struggle.
The Red Steel campaign setting is a savage land blending disparate kingdoms of outcasts who migrated from the Known World in search of power and glory, and native humanoid races of cat- and dog-man knights, shape-changing spider wizards, lizard man and manscorpion warriors, and half-a- dozen more. The land holds a druidic kingdom, swashbucklers, beast-riding knights, and much more.
Red Steel also offers an audio CD disk, but unlike the ones in the World of Mystara products, it is specifically geared toward the more sophisticated core of established AD&D Game players. The disc provides an assortment of DM tools designed to enliven a typical game session, including background music suited for a variety of game circumstances, mood music with sound effects, and dramatic narratives and scenes. The History of Mystara in Novels
The first-ever novel line for the World of Mystara, written for the original D&D(r) Game, was the Penhaligon Trilogy, set in the Barony of Penhaligon in the Duchy of Karameikos. The trilogy begins with the story of one orphan girl and ends in a pre-Wrath of the Immortals peril to the whole of Mystara.
D&D(r) Penhaligon Trilogy
The Tainted Sword, Book One, D. J. Heinrich: The Penhaligon Trilogy begins when Johauna Menhir, an young orphan from the streets of Specularum, sets out to find Flinn the Mighty, hero of her childhood. She finds instead Flinn the Fallen, Flinn the Fool, who has lost status as a Knight of Penhaligon after being accused of denying mercy to an enemy on the battlefield. As Flinn trains young Johauna to become a squire of Penhaligon, he rediscovers his honour, regains his tainted sword, pursues the dragon Verdilith who had brought about his downfall, and is reinstated into the knighthood. In a final conflict with Verdilith, Flinn falls nobly to his old foe.
The Dragon's Tomb, Book Two, D. J. Heinrich: Johauna leaves the funeral pyre of her mentor and love Flinn to track down Verdilith. She follows the beast to his lair and tries to slay him with Flinn's sword Wyrmblight, but the dragon escapes. Returning to Castle Penhaligon, Jo is instated as a squire to Flinn's mentor, the Castellan Sir Graybow. On her first mission, Jo and her companions pursue a terrible artifact that Verdilith and his master, archmage Teryl Auroch, have unleashed upon the world. The artifact is the abaton, a box that drains magic from anything around it. To stop her and gain his revenge, Verdilith, in a polymorphed form, dogs their trail and even joins the party. Jo, discovering the enemy among them, slays Verdilith, but not before the Great Green's master activates the magic-draining abaton and brings Mystara to the brink of destruction.
The Fall of Magic, Book Three, D. J. Heinrich: The magic- draining abaton, when activated, becomes a gateway to the world of the abelaats, evil shadow-creatures that have slumbered since their life-blood, magic, was taken from them. Now, with the pouring of magic from Mystara into the abelaat world, the monstrous creatures are awakening en masse and pouring through the abaton in armies that decimate the countryside. With the sword of Flinn at her side, Jo sets out to the abaton, crosses through to the world of the evil abelaats, and takes on their master, Teryl Auroch. She is unknowingly aided by Flinn, who has returned from the place of immortals to gather into himself the essence of each good race of Mystara and thereby become empowered to defend the world from the menace of the abelaats.
About the Author: D. J. Heinrich is a pseudonym used in collaboration for the D&D Penhaligon Trilogy. The author of the first two books, Dori Watry, most recently has written a short story for the Tales of Ravenloft anthology. She balances her life as a writer with her work as a product-group leader for TSR's Game Department. Under her purview are lines as dynamic and diverse as the Ravenloft(r) and Dark Sun(r) settings. The second author, Kevin Stein, assisted with The Dragon's Tomb and wrote all of The Fall of Magic. As an author, poet, and screenwriter, Kevin Stein has worked on various projects in and out of the gaming industry. He wrote Brothers Majere for the Dragonlance(r) saga as well as numerous game products for TSR and other companies. The Future of Mystara in Novels
In 1994 and 1995, novels about the world of Mystara will branch into two new categories: epic tales for series fantasy saga fans, and shorter books for younger readers. The first in the new line of epic novels is Dragonlord of Mystara, which comes out in July of 1994. It is written for the AD&D(r) Game. The young reader's series of D&D(r) novels begins in 1995 with six novels, including The Unicorn Hunt, Rogues to Riches, and the beginning of a novel triad, Pawn's Prevail.
The Dragonlord Chronicles
by Thorarinn Gunnarsson
July 1994 marks the exciting debut of The Dragonlord Chronicles, a brand-new epic fantasy book trilogy. The author, 36-year-old Thorarinn Gunnarsson, jokingly refers to his name as "destined to go down in the annals of science fiction and fantasy as the most consistently and inventively misspelled." Gunnarsson is a native of Iceland who has had previous occupations as a professional opera singer and film actor and producer before embarking on his current career as an established fantasy writer. He presently makes his home in the southwestern United States.
Not surprisingly, The Dragonlord Chronicles feature plenty of dragons, but these are not your everyday, run-of-the-mill, huge, dangerous creatures. Huge and dangerous they are, but they are also sentient, highly intelligent creatures with dreams of establishing something better for their kind.
The immortal Great One is attempting to organise his dragon brethren into a cohesive force so that, one way or another, they may assume their deserved lofty station in life. This, of course, places them at odds with the humans of Mystara, who have like ambitions for themselves which do not include concern for the status or welfare of dragons.
The first book, Dragonlord of Mystara, begins with a perilous night-time rescue by the Flaemish Highlanders of a female stranger who has been pursued through the rugged mountains by a covey of dragons. Adding to the mystery surrounding the stranger is the fact that she is about to give birth. Semi- retired, one-armed adventurer Sir George Oldyke, the only villager who may be able to understand the stranger's unfamiliar dialect, is summoned to her bedside. Sir George is left alone with her for a short time before the beleaguered, exhausted woman gives birth to a son, then dies. Sir George denies having been able to learn anything.
More than a decade and a half pass before we meet young Thelvyn Fox Eyes, the handsome, copper-skinned, dark-haired offspring of the mysterious stranger. The orphaned young man, whose foreign appearance sets him apart from the fair- haired Flaems, has been raised by the villagers, as is their custom, under the watchful eyes of Sir George. Apprenticed to the village smith, Thelvyn is grateful for the villagers' care, but somehow feels his destiny lies elsewhere.
When the dragons once more begin to raid villages in the foothills to the north, Sir George organises a party of adventurers to investigate, and young Thelvyn is enlisted. As the story unfolds, Thelvyn discovers undreamed-of powers and the secret behind a mysterious prophecy that points to a destiny beyond his wildest imagination.
The Dragonlord Chronicles comprise an epic fantasy on a scale to be expected from TSR, Inc., the publishers of the highly popular Dragonlance(r) Saga. Book Two, Dragonking of Mystara, is scheduled for late spring 1995, with the finale, Great One of Mystara, set for winter of 1996.
D&D(r) Young Reader's Books
The Unicorn Hunt, Elaine Cunningham: The first book in the new Young Reader's line is the tale of young adventurers on a quest to find one of the most beautiful and elusive creatures of all in Mystara, the unicorn. In addition to a shorter length (280 pages rather than 320) and a larger trim size, The Unicorn Hunt features lots of fast-paced adventure, mystical creatures, exciting battles, and places of wonder and awe, the stuff that made fantasy in the first place.
About the Author: Elaine Cunningham has loved stories and songs from a very early age. She started reading folklore and mythology at the age of nine, and her interest has grown ever since. A transplanted New Englander, Elaine lives with her husband and two children in a cat-infested home filled with books and computer stuff.
Rogues to Riches, J. Robert King: When two thieves don the armour and clothes of knights, hoping to steal a king's treasure, their troubles only begin. Rogues is a romp that leads northward from Norwold onto the ice to rescue a beautiful princess who may be more than she appears. The text is loaded with slapstick humour, puns, and even some gaming in-jokes. While younger readers will find it entertaining, older readers will see all sorts of silliness going on beneath the surface.
About the Author: Despite the fact that his first two novels, Heart of Midnight and Carnival of Fear, were Gothic horror, Rob is not the son of Stephen. As though to distance himself from that association, Rob third book, Rogues, is light-hearted. While awaiting the publication of this book, King has written short stories for Tales of Ravenloft, Realms of Infamy, and the DARK SUN module Forest Maker.
Pawn's Prevail, Book One of the Quest Triad, Douglas Niles: The immortals Daliphree and Pusanth have decided to play a game with mortal pawns. One pawn is Princess Danis, born with a silver spoon in her mouth. The other is a farmhand named Holt, born with nothing. As Mystara's mortals cannot interfere directly in the lives of mortals, the game between Daliphree and Pusanth is a very controlled one, indeed. Their pawns seek an artifact, each hoping to find it first, but the evil Nightshade is drawn to the magic item as well, coveting its power.
About the Author: Having written three trilogies (Moonshae, Maztica, and Druidhome) for the Forgotten Realms(r) world, Doug recently turned his attentions to the D&D(r) Known World with his upcoming Quest Triad. He reread the works of Lloyd Alexander in preparation for writing the triad, seeking a tone both heroic and light. Doug's other credits include The Kinslayer Wars, Flint, the King (co-authored with Mary Kirchoff) and Emperor of Ansalon, all set in the Dragonlance(r) world. He is currently working on a fantasy trilogy for Ace publishing.
So far, only two SSI computer games connected with the World of Mystara have been released. Both were created for the D&D Game, although anyone can play then will equal enjoyment.
The first game, Strongholds, reflects am unusual aspect of Mystara products where heroes often endeavour to gain a nobility title and eventually build a kingdom. Stronghold allows a player to chose among several types of heroes, fighters, wizards, thieves, and set them up as vassals of a centre character. Each starts with a simple tower and strive to build up their dominions, from small shops and taverns, to major castles and arenas. Each building modifies the dominions' economic and military abilities. The player central character attempts to become a "king" and defeat hordes of nasty monsters who will eventually overrun the player's kingdom if not dealt with in time. The world where all this takes place is randomly generated and the game's difficulty level can be set by the player.
The second release, Fantasy Empires, actually uses the Known World. This is more of an actual war and diplomacy game where up to five players build large-scale armies and attempt to conquer the various nations of the Known World. The players must successfully deal with the Dungeon Master (a critter hunching over the top of the screen!) to build their empires. The DM in this game acts both as a consultant for the players and a referee working to keep the players on their toes.