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New/old setting with Karameikos from (Cook) Expert

by combatmedic

Okay, so I love Mystara, but I'd like to rework parts of it. I'm a tinkerer and I have a lot of notes of my own about kingdoms, wildneress zones, and other stuff that doesn't fit so well in the KW as developed.
I've picked my favorite realm, Karameikos, and taken it as the basis for a new/old, homebrew/published setting.

My baseline is the 1981 Expert map and notes, pages 60 to 62 in Moldvay/Cook Expert set.

Looking over it, here are my initial thoughts .

• Lots of wilderness!
• Lots of nonhuman tribes/holds/territories marked on the map
• Specularaum is only 5K people, making it a small city. I imagine it is growing. EDIT-- Maybe that only counts human citizens who live within the walls? A wee bit bigger may be nice if I use The Veiled Society, but I don't want a really big city. The lands around town might be under intensive cultivation. Oh, and it's going to be renamed MIRROS, as per later material.
• Krakatos an inhabited border castle indep. of the Duke—a river lord perhaps? Does he obey the Duke? Could it be the Keep on the Borderlands (though that might work better further inland)?
• Wereskalot= ruins
• Dwarves live in mountains/hills NE of Wereskalot.
As the map shows “a section” of Karameikos, it seems that the territory claimed by Duke Stefan runs off the map to the east—but it won’t be a major inhabited area (Specularum/nearby country and the Black Eagle Barony are the major zones of settlement)
There could be a town out that way, or a string of fishing villages, maybe, as on the later canonical maps.

Civilization beyond the borders
• Selenica looks like a big jumping off point for colonization, exploration, and trade with the nonhuman tribes further north. It sits at the terminus of a road through the mountains, but no roads run from it further west. Maybe the Selenicans claim sovereignty of that wide northern strip, but haven’t actually gained more than a partial, shaky control of the most of those lands? Alliances with certain factions/ tribes, bribes, patrols???

Other stuff based on looking at the borders marked:
• One or two island realms or wilderness zones lie to the south of the Grand Duchy.
• That mid-sea border that doesn’t follow a hex line strongly suggests a treaty was signed and somebody has a naval presence out there to enforce it. An eastern maritime power… Or is the border land/sea shading an error? The squiggly line looks a LOT more like coastline, and the hex edges like the proper border. Either way, something has limited the Duke’s territorial claims—otherwise why not claim more land?
• Realm/country lays on the western side, coastal to mountains region, an area which is at least partly inhabited by goblins. Did they sack Wereskalot?
• Other realms or territories stretch over the mountains, hills, and forests to the north and NW of the Grand Duchy. One look as if it might be a forest kingdom or some sort, far north portion of the map. (In X 1 and later works, that’s Alfheim, but nothing requires me to populate it with elves or assume anything more than “ large woodlands zone with a border’’ right now).

Some musings on climate and geography:
• The notes describe temperate climate overall with short and mild winters, long summers. Not much snow.
• “Rainfall is ample but not heavy and easterly winds blow cool breezes from over the sea”
• This suggests cool winds and rain moving EAST to WEST. That’s the reverse of what we see in X-1, isn’t it?
• Thinking about rain shadow, I’m guessing the hills SW of Selenica are dry, the closest thing to desert on the map.
• That northern forest might be scrub oaks or cedar woods or something like that. Is there a a big lake or an inlet from the ocean on the far northern side? Might allow more rain to get in that way...
• I note that, while caves aren’t exactly marked all over the place, many of the nonhumans and demi humans live near the ones that are marked. Are the mountains to the north limestone?

I’ll need to consider placement on the as-yet-unmapped globe. There’s no guarantee the stuff further off the map edges is laid out like the canonical Known World, or the rest of Mystara.
I wonder if Karameikos may lie in the Southern Hemisphere?

Names and etymologies

Use of modules and later published materials, including free fan stuff from Pandius (all credit given by name to anyone whose ideas I borrow, natch):
I’ll choose what I like, leaving the rest out or changing it as I please.
I like the Veiled Society module, and the way it portrays Specularum.
I like Rahasia.
Journey to the Rock has some fun stuff in it, though I’d rewrite parts of it if I ran it. It might be better to use it as an expansion area, off the map.
I may not use the Known World map from X1, but I will no doubt cherry pick stuff from it and the GAZ series. The Isle of Dread with probably show up someplace.
Daddy loves him some dino action.

I’ll nab some place names, lore, NPCs and such from GAZ 1, but I don’t feel bound by it all.
Keep on the Borderlands will figure in someplace, maybe not in the area depicted on the map.
I’ll probably use Threshold.
Thunder Rift might be placed somewhere not too far away from this big regional/realm map. That would allow PCs from my old TR game to travel out, perhaps. We’ll see.

I see others see the possible etymology of Krakatos in much the same way I do.

Found this interesting.

Republic of Selenica & Wilderlands of the Northern Cruth Piedmont
The Free City of Selenica commands the western pass and trade road terminus through the Altan Tepes. No clear boundary separates the Republic from the wild monsters tribes. Out of sight of the western walls, the Republic’s writ runs only as far as the arrows and spears of its soldiers can reach. The city government takes a handsome cut of the lucrative trade in western gold and various eastern goods.
The Northern Piedmont resembles the hill country in Karameikos over the Steach/Cruth to the south, but drier and dustier with fewer and smaller trees. Local dwarves, goblins, and kobolds fight an off-and-on three-way war over the miles of mine tunnels looping under the brown hills. Territorial claims here shift with battles and skirmishes; sometimes the fighting takes place underground and no surface markers show travelers whose territory they have entered/are walking over. Explorers and prospectors camping out in the hills at night may find themselves surrounded by hostile humanoids (further west, they may encounter patrols of suspicious dwarves).

The Maquis/the Briars
Dense stands of scrub oaks and broad thickets of thorn bushes* cover much of the lowlands and the northernmost fringe of the foothills. Bandits haunt this country, Men descended in part from herdsmen driven off their lands in old times by the greedy Goblins and Kobolds, after the long series of gold rushes began. The bandits prey on all races alike, grabbing gold dust and anything else of value, always retreating after attacks, seeking the safety of their bramble-fenced hidden villages. The bandits wear specially made leather kit that helps them slip in and out of brush without snagging their skin or clothes on the clinging thorns.

• The Northern Piney Woods and the Sweetwater Sea (large inland body of water, off map edge, covers most of what Mystara/KW maps show as Alfheim)
Going north, a traveler sees the low brush thickets and thorny woods give wall to tall pines. Smalls bands of elves dwell here.
The elves may share stories of the homeland a few miles further north still, their glittering city and broad green fields, now all sunk beneath the vast freshwater lake that waters the forest fringes. At night, a wandered along the lakeside might chance to hear bells ringing in the deep.

* A bit of a cheat, but there's not a map symbol that precisely matches this kind of cover. It could be classed as grasslands or forest, but it's more like something between the two. I'm reading the belt of woods just north of the foothills on the Expert map as a scrub forest/brush country that gives way to pine woods along the shore of a big lake. Yeah, I flood part of Alfheim. That may moderate the climate in part of the interior.


• ruins of Wereskalot, and the goblin-plagued southwest country
• The islands, south
• Portown( Holmes)
• Eastern countries (civilization?)
• The Keep on the Borderlands
• Old Tuma and nearby regions
• Gulluvia/Haven region
• Thunder Rift?

I'm going for a wilder north and west than what we see in the canonical Known World.
The big cities and well-populated realms will probably lie east of the mountains and south across the sea,

My working assumption is that what is now Karameikos once had a larger human population, but a plague reduced that (maybe spread by nosferatu or were rats) thinned the numbers of men. Explorers in the back country and woods might sometimes come across ghost towns and crumbled old towers.



Ghoul country/ The Forest of Weir and the Lake of Auber
• Yep, this comes from Ulalume.
• Elder ghouls rule from a dead city in a moldering woodland, bossing packs of bestial lesser ghouls. Agarats may show up, too.
• This zone may be situated someplace near the elf woods and the Sweetwater Sea. The elves and the ghouls will be mortal enemies (elf immunity to ghoul paralysis coming into play ? ).

A big wetlands zone
• The Malpheggi, I suppose. I always liked that name and I may use it if the wetlands end up in the same map area. More or less.
• The mini-adventure in the DM’s screen for Cook rules seems to be set in that region. Duke Stefan the Hermit, Colonel Rosentos…

Princes of Glantri
• It shows up on the map from the orange cover Palace of the Silver Princess. That’s good enough for me. But what the heck is it like in my very much not canonical Un-mystara?
• Idea …
Nine Princes in Glantri
Nine wizard princes and princess rule the land, sometimes cooperating, sometimes working against one another.

Why nine princes? It’s a Zelanzy reference: Nine Princes in Amber. And it seems like a manageable number, in terms of design work.

• Clerics are not banned, but they are watched and subject to certain restrictions, similar to what the late period, post WotI Glantri stuff set up.

Dwarves are discriminated against, but not hunted down like dogs and killed.

(I don’t want to discourage the party from visiting this country if it includes dwarves and clerics, which it almost certainly will. But I do like the idea of some social and legal hindrances that could lead to fun RP).

• Literary inspiration: X 2 obviously draws deep from the well of the mighty Hyberborean necromancer, Klarkash-Ton. But what about Glantri proper?
I may draw some ideas from Dunsany’s romantic presentation of Spain during the Siglo d’Oro, mixed with older medieval stuff. That should provide a nice contrast with the darker, yet still whimsical and fanciful, material of X- 2.

Since gnolls seem to be named after creatures from Lord Dunsany’s work, I may use them as common baddies/minions of the less scrupulous princes.