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Capcom Mystara: a possible setting for a future Known Worldby LoZompatore
DISCLAIMER NOTE: This article is mostly for the fun of it, just to play with the map depicted in the Capcom series of 'Tower of Doom' / 'Shadow over Mystara' arcade games to draft a possible future scenario for the Known World. Maybe it could be inspirational and give some ideas for DMs wishing to include the changes shown below in their campaigns.
Of course, in no way I'm selling it as "the" future of Mystara after the Joshuan Almanac events.
Comparison of maps:
The basic map shown in "Shadow over Mystara" 1996 arcade game by Capcom is as follows:
(Just in case you are interested, a longplay recording of the whole game is available here; the map of the Known World is visible starting from 13:19).
As you can clearly see, the whole western half of the map is completely different from what we are accustomed to. Coastlines, rivers, lakes and national borders do not follow the traditional paths shown in the offical supplements; moreover, a few new countries are added. Greatest changes on rivers, national borders, and coastlines are highlighted below:
In order to more closely check the differences with the 'standard' Known World I assembled this map from Thorf's replica of post-WotI Known World, from CoM map of Sind and from my own version of B3 map for the Adri Varma plateau:
Finally I superimposed Capcom map with the assembled map shown above. Here are the results:
Now, just to play with the comparison above, what if this map actually represents the future of the Known World?
The whole setting of 'Shadow over Mystara' (and its prequel 'Tower of Doom') was originally designed as a proper Mystara campaign (see here for details) to be play tested before the arcade games were designed. As both arcade games describe the (possibly definitive) defeat of Synn by a party of adventurers they are definitely set in the future of Mystara with respect to the PWAs and JA events.
Timeframe for the setting:
So, let's establish a temporal placement for this setting.
I know there is an already available fan-made placement for Tower of Doom in AC 1014, with Shadow over Mystara canonically happening two years later (to the best of my knowledge the origin for this placement comes from this article) but, if the large modifications to the map shown above have to be included, I don't think it is very realistic to have them happening just the year after the end of the official timeline.
Moreover, the whole 'Tower of Doom' / 'Shadow Over Mystara' plot assumes that the evil scheming of Synn in Glantri has already been discovered and foiled and, by the time of 'Shadow Over Mystara' events, she is addressed in Glantri as "the evil sorceress". She is now busy plotting the demise of Glantri, Darokin and the Known World in general from a hidden lair in the dead forest of Aengmor.
Finally, the setting has quite a few differences with respect to established canon: Aengmor is now a fungi-infested dead wood called the Forest of Despair, shadow elves live in old Alfheim elves settlements (Aensun is mentioned), Glantri possesses a powerful Oostdock-like fleet of airships, while juggernauts in Darokin seem pretty common.
For all these reasons I'd say that at least some decades should have elapsed since the end of the official timeline.
I guess the only good reference here is Malachie du Marais being the ruling "Prince of Glantri". According to his PWAI background he is just 30 years old by AC 1010, first gaining his barony in the same years. Assuming that the title of Prince is assigned only to senior figures - and that his title was likely given him because he was the leader of the coalition opposed to Synn - I'd say that it is safe to assume the events of Capcom arcade games are actually happening a generation later than the PWAs.
So, I'd stick with an AC 1045-1050 timeframe for the whole setting.
Comments about the new Know World:
Now, some insights that can be inferred from the new Know World map, as shown below and divided by country in alphabetical order.
Where possible I integrated available info from 'Tower of Doom' / 'Shadow Over Mystara' events.
Adri Varma plateau: A single country rules the southern and eastern part of the plateau, including north-western Glantri (basically Sablestone, New Averoigne and Morlay-Malinbois former principalities) and northern Peshmir. A border on the west suggests that not all of the plateau is under the rule of this country. In GKoM map the plateau is listed as "claimed by Hule" as of AC 1013, so it can be assumed that this part of the Known World is under a Hulean Satrapy. The territory ruled by this Satrapy could have been much larger before the cataclysm that changed the coastlines, to include the whole of Sind, but now at least the easternmost part of this country is independent (see the entry for Sind below). According to GKoM info, Synn is an enemy of Malachie du Marais so she may had a role into inducing Hule to conquer the Principality of Morlay-Malinbois and surroundings, in order to weaken her opponent.
Given the border shown to the west of the plateau I assume the interior of the Adri Varma is still ruled by Gulluvia and the other countries from B3 module (assuming B3 information is used to detail the plateau). After the loss of Sind, the Hulean Satrapy may now be a relatively weak nation encompassing mostly poor terrain. After Synn's defeat at the end of 'Shadow over Mystara' plotline, it is very likely that Glantri will recover its lost principality from the Satrapy.
Alfheim/Aengmor: Still under shadow elves rule, no significant border changes. Old Alfheim towns are now inhabited by shadow elves (Aensun is explicitly mentioned in 'Shadow over Mystara' narration). The ancient trees of Alfheim are dead for good and any attempt to revive them failed. The forest is now mostly covered with giant fungi and was renamed the 'Forest of Despair'. The shadow elves living in the country are now under the evil influence of the night dragon Synn following her escape from Glantri. An evil shadow elf named Tel'Arin is among Synn's chief lieutenants (he is one of the so-called four 'Grand Masters', the other three being a nagpa - possibly Abatu of Varellya - a spectre-like undead and a fiend-like monster). Synn established a lair below the dead 'Strong Oak', a huge tree 1000 years old placed at the very centre of the forest of Alfheim/Aengmor.
Atruaghin Clans: The Atruaghin Plateau is broken in the middle and sunken for more than 50% of its area, albeit the sunken lands cover mostly the unpopulated part (this may be thanks to some form of protection provided by the Immortal Atruaghin during the sinking). Losses include almost all the lands of the Children of the Elk and about half of the lands of the Children of the Horse, Children of the Bear and Children of the Turtle (albeit the Children of the Turtle can sail to relocate somewhere else) each. The lands of the Children of the Tiger are mostly unaffected (this may be due to Atzanteotl wishing to protect this clan as they are followers of Entropy, see the end ot the article). The settlements of the scattered Atruaghin tribes of the northwest (wolf, buffalo, moose, salmon) are mostly spared by the cataclysm but the three local lakes now drain in the new sea. The Atruaghin lands are now part of a larger country which may be ruled by Azcans from the Hollow World (see the end of the article).
Broken Lands/Shadow Elves Territory: Mostly unchanged, with some minor gains in the Black Hills. The lands are full under Synn's control. She placed one of her minions, the archlich Deimos, in a magical tower (Sable Tower) north of Fort Runnels (from 'Tower of Doom' background). From here Deimos raised humanoid hordes to conquer Darokin and Glantri. After Deimos' defeat Synn magically opened a deep chasm at the border between the humanoid territories of Orcus Rex and Trollhattan, just above the City of the Stars of the shadow elves. She then placed a flying castle and a huge red dragon guarding the chasm. Possibly the tower of Deimos the archlich was placed at the same spot of the chasm and the lich helped prepare it before his defeat. Since the City of the Stars is built on the ceiling of a vast cavern (see GAZ 13) the bottom of the chasm pierces the floor of the Temple of Rafiel in the shadow elves settlement. According to 'Shadow over Mystara' plot Synn somehow learned of Rafiel secret project about the Chamber of the Spheres and seized it with a surprise magical attack. The power of the Chamber are to be exploited by Synn to summon an extremely powerful fiend to be unleashed over the Known World. Possibly the shadow elves of the City of the Stars are opposed to Synn and are sieging the complex but trhey are prevented by magic to enter the Temple of the Stars, as the only way the PCs from 'Shadow over Mystara' can enter the Chamber of the Stars is a magical 'warp crystal' stolen from Sable Tower at the end of the battle against Deimos.
Darokin: Lost all the westernmost lands, possibly including the city of Akesoli (the new borders are not very clear so Akesoli could still be an enclave of Darokin or a free city). Possibly the north-western border of the country is along the Fort Fletcher-Bronsdale-Fort Anselbury line. The Amsorak lake was drained into the new sea and substituted by a network of small rivers. Darokin gained some the western woods of the former Atruaghin Clans (Children of the Tiger lands), lost Port Tenobar and possibly also Fort Anselbury (or the fort now stands right on the border). To the north, the Black Hills are firmly in humanoids' hands. Other gains in the southern woods of Alfheim/Aengmor were already shown on TM2 map so they may be older than 'Tower of Doom' events. By the time of 'Shadow over Mystara' story, the city of Athenos is ruled by a man named Corwyn Linton. The Malpheggi Swamp seems to be under water according to the new map, but the swamp is visited by the PCs during the events of 'Tower of Doom' so this geographical change is ignored.
Ethengar Lands: Borders mostly unchanged with some minor losses to the east at the advantage of the kingdom of Vestland. Two large lakes now stand in the northwest of the steppes running along the border with Boldavia and covering the whole Land of the Purple Grass, which is now lost as a permanent grazing territory (and source of conflict) for the Yugatai, Kaerut and Taijit Clans and for the Gostai goblins. Possibly the easternmost lake is filled by a redirected branch of the Streel River. Both lakes and the diversion of Streel river may be part of an attempt by the northern Glantrian principalities (see entries about Glantri and Nordling for details) to provide some natural obstacle against enemy Ethengarian raids. Available land for the Yugatais was greatly reduced by the lakes and this clan is now mostly isolated from Glantrian territory and from their Kaeruts allies. Moreover, the only passage to the southern steppes by the Yugatais is mostly blocked by Gostai goblins. Finally, the main trade route to the Heldannic Territories is now moved at the Kaeruts/Yugatai border and much closer to Nordling (see) territory, leaving the Uighurs much impoverished.
Five Shires: Mostly unchanged, some minor modifications to territorial waters with Ierendi. The Cruth Mountains are already shown to be mostly in Darokininan territory as of TM2 map, albeit this was changed in WotI, so it is unclear if there actually was any border change between Darokin and the Five Shires.
Glantri: By the time of 'Shadow over Mystara' events, Synn showed up her true colours against the Princes of Glantri, was defeated and fled the land to establish new power bases in the Broken Lands and Aengmor/Alfheim. Malachie du Marais, one of her main opponents according to GKoM, is now the ruling 'Prince of Glantri' (see below). The country has very different borders with respect to AC 1000 or AC 1013; they now include the former Sindhi kingdoms of Nagpuri, Gunjab and southern Peshmir, parts of old Sindrastan and the capital of Kadesh. Notice that, according to CoM, all three kingdoms were already tied with Glantri: Gunjab was secretly aided by Glantri for independence from Sind as early as AC 1000; Peshmir's economy is basically tied to Glantri and Wendar; the whole ruling family of Nagpuri is made of magic-users and most revenues of this country come from Darokin and Glantri. Moreover, the whole north-western tip of Darokin, encompassing about two-thirds of the former Amsorak lake - and possibly including the city of Akesoli (see the entry about Darokin for further details) is now part of Glantri. On the opposite hand, Glantri lost its northernmost provinces: Aalban, Bergdhoven, Klantyre and Boldavia principalities detached from the rest of the country (see entry for "Nordling" below) becoming an independent nation. This may have something to do with the war against Synn; these principalities may be former allies of the sorceress (Aalban was already under Synn influence in the years after WotI; Klantyre and Boldavia are ruled by undead and Bergdhoven is ruled by the last pure-blooded and separatist Flaems). At the same time, the Principalities of Sablestone, New Averoigne and Morlay-Malinbois appear to be included in a foreign country that also rules over northern Peshmir and most of the Adri Varma plateau (see); the most likely candidate is Hule, who claimed the Adri Varma plateau as early as of AC 1013 (see GKoM map). As Malachie du Marais was an early opposer to Synn it is possible that the whole Hulean invasion was engineered by her at the beginning of the conflict in the attempt to destroy her opponent. Malachie survived the loss of his lands and, after the war, he was granted the 'rulership' of Glantri as a 'Prince'. Finally, fate of the Principality of Bramyra is uncertain, as it seems to have been partially invaded by the Ethengarians.
Heldannic Territories: Unchanged (assumption).
Ierendi: Lost Elegy Island to the new country to the northeast. As the island is mostly populated with Makai and undead this is not a major loss for the country and possibly is not worth retaking at this stage. Minor adjustments in territorial waters with Karameikos.
Jaibul: Surviving mostly unscathed by the cataclysm this country enlarged its borders on the remnants of Putnabad to gain control over the mouth of the new westernmost gulf. Its eastern expansion may more easily bring it into conflict with the Ierendians. People of Jaibul may be allies with the Azcans of the Atruaghin plateau (see the end of the article) by buying and selling slaves.
Karameikos: Some minor border changes on the eastern border with Thyatis and on the northern mountains, suggesting a successful campaign against the frost giants for the protection of the trade route between Selenica and Ylaruam. Minor changes in territorial waters with Ierendi and Minrothad.
Minrothad: Mostly unchanged. Minor adjustments in territorial waters with Karameikos.
Nordling: This is the northernmost part of AC 1000 Glantri, including the old Principalities of Aalban, Bergdhoven, Klantyre and Boldavia, now acting as an independent country. I named this country "Nordling" as the fortress with this name is located more or less in the middle of the territory. This country may be the result of the early scheming of Synn and it might be formed by her former allies before the showdown against Malachie du Marais leading to her defeat. They could have removed all support to her when she revealed her true identity as a night dragon; nevertheless the rebel principalities were not integrated back in Glantri mostly due to mistrust by the rest of the nobles. It is possible that the diversion of the Streel River and the new lakes bordering with the Ethengar Steppes were magically created by the people of Nordling to establish a stronger border with the Ethengarians and reduce the attacks from here, as support from the other Glantrian principalities is now lacking.
Ostland: Ostland as an independent kingdom is no more, being invaded by the Nordhartar Defense League and divided between Vestland and Soderfjord. The invasion was successful due to the defeat and decline of Thyatis (a powerful ally of Ostland) during the war against Alphatia, due to the great losses in Ostlandian navy incurred in that same conflict and to the political infighting putting Queen Yrsa and her son Finn Hordson against Asgrim the Bowed and Geir Hordson (brother of Finn). The status of Ostland colonies in the Isle of Dawn is unknown. Notice that, as per GAZ7, since AC 990 the Ostman clan is allied with the Soderfjord Jarldoms against the House of King Hord. (NOTE: by AC 1013 Finn, who is now 18, is close to become Ostland's new king. Geir is 17 at that time).
Rockhome: Mostly unchanged. Lost part of the eastern borders to Soderfjord and Vestland due to campaigns of these countries against local monsters, humanoids and giants aimed to secure the borderlands.
Sind: Sind is not a unified country anymore. Gunjab, southern Peshmir and Nagpuri are within the new borders of Glantri, northern Peshmir is within the Hulean Satrapy, most of Putnabad is under water and the rest of this kingdom is under Jaibul rule. Parts of Shajarkand, East Jhengal, Jalawar and the whole salt swamp of the Malakaz are also under water; the creature may be now free to roam the waters of the new western sea. Of the other kingdoms of Sind West Jhengal, Sindrastan, Kadesh and Baratkand are largely unaffected by the changes albeit local climate may be much wetter now that the Atruaghin plateau is no more and all countries now border the new western sea. Political borders of Sindrastan are modified to include part of Baratkand, while the capital of Kadesh is now part of Glantri. It may be assumed that the cataclysm set free the whole of eastern Sind from Hulean influence, due to the large new sea dividing these lands from the bulk of the desert. The western kingdoms of Sind could be still under Hulean influence but the possibility to trade and ask for reinforcements by sea should improve their self-defence capabilities, not counting the possible successful actions by the followers of Gareth in rallying the population against the Hulean invaders.
Soderfjord: Conquered the eastern half of the Kingdom of Ostland; the islands of Noslo (except Port Swenson) and Osterlo are under its rule. Possibly a political marriage with Princess Igrid (daughter of Queen Yrsa, see PWAI) helped unifying both crowns. Some enlargements also to the west in the Rockhome mountains, possibly following successful campaigns against local monsters and humanoids. A new river in the Hardanger mountains flows in the new Nithian Fjord in the Ylaruam Emirates.
Thyatis: Mostly unchanged. Lost some plains north of Tel Akbir to the Emirates in exchange with some hills northeast of Fort Nikos. Minor adjustments of the whole western border with Karameikos. A new river from Alasyians Southwestern Highlands flows to Fort Nikos and Makrast to the Trevonian River further south (NOTE: This new river may actually flow in the opposite direction from its spring in the Thyatian Altan Tepes until it evaporates in the Alasyian basin)
Vestland: Conquered the western half of the Kingdom of Ostland; the islands of Kalslo, Kunslo and Port Swenson are under its rule. Some enlargements also to the west in the Rockhome mountains - possibly following successful campaigns against the humanoids and giants of the Makkres Mountains - and on the Ethengar Steppes, possibly to secure borders and trade routes. Vestland searoutes shoule be now much safer, leading to an increase in wealth for this country,
Ylaruam: Mostly unchanged political borders, with minor corrections on the southern border with Thyatis (some territory gained at Tel Akbir and some lost at Biazzan). A new fjord now crosses the Emirate of Nithia, with two long tributaries from the Hardanger Mountains and from the Altan Tepes, respectively. Another new river flows between the Thyatian Altan Tepes and the Alasyian basin (see also the entry about Thyatis). Thanks to the fjord and the new rivers local climate in the westernmost part of Alasyia is likely much milder. This may be a first step toward realizing the Dream of the Garden in the Desert.
Wendar: Unchanged (assumption).
Possible origin for the cataclysm:
Just throwing in some ideas here, feel free to suggest your own.
A possible explanation for the cataclysm could be traced in an association between the change operated on the Nucleus of the Spheres at the end of WotI and the partial freedom of movement given by Thanatos to the burrowers during the Blood Brethren Trilogy, which is never averted at the end of the modules.
At the end of WotI the Nucleus of the Spheres is modified by the Old One so to drain Entropy from Mystara instead of Energy. It seems to me that this should also shift the powers granted by the Nucleus toward Entropy (this is because the previous Nucleus drained Energy from Mystara to grant Energy-related powers and ultimately, Immortality in the Sphere of Energy). So, the Nucleus becomes a device useful to boost powers of the Entropic minions.
The burrowers may be the perfect candidates for this boosting. Those free from the Spell of Preservation could assemble underground way below the Chamber of the Spheres in Glantri and, undetected, drain it of much of its entropic power for years and decades. The empowered creatures could then release what they gained in the form of tectonic upheavals on the command of Entropic Immortals.
A possible liege could be Atzanteotl who, wishing to destroy the followers of Atruaghin, has planned the breaking of the plateau by sinking it under the waves with the unleash of the augmented power of the burrowers. By the way, the five Alphatian mages who seized the Atruaghin plateau shortly after WotI (see PWAI-II) may actually be servants of Atzanteotl paving the way for the summoning of the eldritch powers needed to destroy the plateau.
At the same time Atzanteotl induced one or more great annelids to carve a tunnel following the same path of the Atruatzin elevator from the ruins of Quauhnahuac (90 miles northeast of the old lighthouse of Titlapoca, at the very north-eastern borders of the Azcan Empire) in the Hollow World to the Palace of Atruaghin in the Outer World. The Immortal then led the Azcans to the Outer World to invade the remnants of the Atruaghin lands, possibly with the help of the Children of the Tiger, who are already under full control of Entropy as of AC 1000. This invasion could be heralded to the Azcans as the beginning of the 'Time of Conquest', the next age in the cycle of the Azca as described in the 'Sons of Azca' supplement.
The Azcans are good sailors, at least on internal seas (the whole Azcan Empire in the Hollow World is built around a large internal sea), so they are able to exploit the chaos from the tectonic cataclysm to seize surrounding lands outside the former Atruaghin plateau i.e.: the remnants of Shajarkand and Jalawar, Elegy Island, Port Tenobar and part of the old basin of Amsorak lake. Moreover, the Azcans living in the Outer World are now free from the cultural stasis of the Spell of Preservation: nothing would prevent them from using the ships seized at Port Tenobar for their fleet, to use the wheel and to adopt more modern war tactics for their armies (such as those developed by the Children of the Tiger or by the Darokinian as well).
The sinking of the Asanda River valley in Sind may be a side effect of the upheavals in the Atruaghin region or may be an attempt by Bozdogan / Loki to punish the Sindhis who are following in larger and larger numbers the teachings of Gareth. Alternatively, the flooding may also be some kind of blessing by Gareth for his followers to bring a mild climate and fertility to the lands of Sind (people living in the Asanda River valley may have been warned in advance to evacuate or may be moved to the Hollow World), or may have something to do with the Malakaz of the salt swamp. In any case, given the large number of independent countries shown in the region, I'd say that Hule lost control of the area before, or shortly after, the disaster.
Finally, some notes about Synn. Following her defeat in Glantri, the 'Tower of Doom' / 'Shadow over Mystara' plot shows that she is trying to seize the Chamber of the Stars of the shadow elves in order to summon a great fiend of unknown power. By this time the Chamber of the Stars seems to be operational to some extent; from GAZ 13 it should be a duplicate of the Nucleus of the Spheres so, maybe now it is the new reference point for arcane users of magic after the Nucleus of the Spheres was drained of much of its entropic power by the burrowers (this would also explain Glantrian expansion toward eastern Sind kingdoms). The flying castle Synn moves above the chasm in the Broken Lands may be her old castle in Fenswick or - more interestingly, in my opinion - it may be taken from the ruins of Oceania, where she established her original base of power. I guess it would be cool to have Oceania as a land of abandoned flying castles.
A final map with the new political entities:
And this would be the final map summarizing the ideas described above:
I'd be really interested in reading from you, especially if you have other thoughts and suggestions about this potential setting (especially about a possible origin of the tectonic upheavals).
Going a step further, do you think that this scenario could be merged with the consequences of the 'World in Flames' epic by Bruce Heard (available here)?