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Damocles - Mystaraspace’s Fourth Planetby Giampaolo Agosta from Threshold Magazine issue 15
Damocles, the fourth planet of the Mystaran solar system, was not covered in “canon” source beyond passing mentions, and even Threshold Magazine and other non-canonical sources are scarce. The goal of this article, which collects and revises some previous work from the Vaults of Pandius, is to use Damocles as a sub-setting where elements from AD&D 2e, which are usually not found in Mystara, such as the tiefling race, Broken Ones, or tasloi can be used.
The article assumes that the Pyrithians from the asteroid belt, the Emerondians found in Davania, and the Federation aliens from the FSS Beagle are all related, and that they are related to the main inhabitants of Damocles.
The destruction of Damocles in 1000 AC conveniently removes the planet and most of its inhabitants (save for the Pyrithian space pirates) from the setting, thus leaving more freedom to design the subsetting.
Damocles is the fourth planet of the Mystaran solar system. It is inhabited by the Pyrithean Races, descendants of the Grens from the alien Federation. The name Damocles itself is an evolution of the name given to the planet by the FSS Beagle captain Bork Riesling, "DMK-3". As the language of the stranded grens evolved, the name was pronounced "Damok-Tres", which later became Damocles, and finally reached its standard form some 500 years ago. The original name was meant to show the galactic sector where the planet was found (Sector D, though actually this was wrong, as the Beagle had unknowingly entered some kind of portal, and shifted to the Mystaran Milky Way). M and K designated the Mystaran Solar System, in a base-32 code. Three was the number of the planet (Mystara was DMK-2, the numbers were given in order of exploration).
Damocles is a flat world, a semi-sphere whose flat surface is inhabited. It is slightly smaller than Mystara in equatorial diameter (around 6,500 miles), so its inhabited surface is nearly 80 million sq km.
Map link on Pandius
Damocles has no moon. There is an asteroid belt around the planet. The planet is far from the sun, but it receives additional light and warmth from the giant gaseous planet Tarastia. Due to the strong influence of Tarastia on Damocles' climate, the seasonal patterns are very different from those of Mystara. Damocles experiences a very cold winter when Tarastia is farther, while it is warmer when the giant planet is nearer.
The surface of Damocles is encircled by the Outer Ring, a circle of tall, unbreakable mountains that prevent water, air, and people from leaving the flat area. On the outer side of the Barrier, and on the curved face of Damocles, the atmosphere is thin, and only simple lifeforms -- or those who do not need air -- can survive. Within the Outer Barrier, there is an ocean and several major seas.
Gravity is very low (natural gravity of a small planet like Damocles). On the flat side, gravity is magically enhanced, up to Earth-like values near the ground.
The climate on Damocles is influenced by its distance from the sun, and only the strong emission of warmth from the very heart of the planet allows life to thrive here. Due to these emissions, the earth is often warmer than the air, so there are accessional currents that make flight easier even to larger flying creatures.
Another effect of these emissions is that warmer regions are found near the center of the planet -- deserts, then steaming jungles, and finally temperate regions. The coldest climates are found on the Outer Ring, a chain of tall mountains that encircles the planet. Rain patterns are based on the circulation of air, which gets warmer near the center of the planet, creating ascensional currents, and colder near the Outer Ring.
The influence of Tarastia provides additional effects, not unlike those of the moons on Mystara.
Atlas of Damocles
In this section, the foremost nations of Damocles are briefly described. Much like the world map in the Master Set, the map of Damocles is not exhaustive. There are countless smaller or larger states, more or less independent of the main powers described here.
The Pachydermion homeland, Nok’r Damri is a theocracy. The pachydermions of Damocles worship a triad of Immortals: Amt Knes (Ssu-Ma), Amt Dei (Land), and Amt Pel (Fugit). Amt Knes is also known as Ganetra among the Pyrithians, Amt Dei is known as Damocles, and Amt Pel as Tempus. The pachydermions also respect the Elemasters, Phleung (Fire), Phendei (earth), Tuk (Water) and Khyal (Air). An evil pantheon composed of arok (demons), is seen as presiding over Hell: Hel, Stodos and Demogorgon. Stodos is the demon in charge of the Outer Ring monsters, Demogorgon of the inner sea monsters, and Hel of the underground monsters.
While all pachydermions bow to the rule of the High Trunk in Kampoul Thap, their land is actually fractionated into many smaller principalities, each ruled by a warrior dynasty.
Pyrond is the homeland and major nation of the Pyrondians. Powerful life-shapers, the Pyrondians have modified their own stock extensively, and their most powerful life-shapers have achieved powers not unlike those of human or demi-human rangers (in AD&D, use the Greenwood Ranger). However, their powers are drawn from life-shaped mutations rather than from magic. In more modern times, the Pyrondians of Pyrond have discovered Druidic magic, and have established a full Forest Druid circle. Ancient Pyrondian druids transform permanently into tree-like beings (equivalent to Treants).
Empire of Pyrithis
The most important Pyrithian nation, the Empire of Pyrithis is the major naval power. However, its territory borders the hostile lands of the Dark Pyrondians Pheazar and Ragol. Thus, much of Pyrithis’ military might is locked guarding the borders against the gibberling hordes of Ragol and the more insidious demons from Pheazar’s desertic domain.
Pyrith, the Imperial capital, is the largest city on Damocles, and holds many relics of the Federation aliens, the ancestors of the Pyrithians. Besides Pyrithians, also Dark Pyrithians, Broken Ones, and pachydermions live in the Empire. The official religion is a variation on the Nok’r Damri cult, except that the most prominent Immortal is Tempus (the preserver of the imperial line) rather than Ganetra.
Kingdom of Damoclides
The second largest Pyrithian nation, Damoclides is a federal monarchy. The five kings owe allegiances to the High King, who resides in the city of Damoclean. Dark Pyrithians are quite prominent in the region, in part due to the machinations of the Dark Pyrondians Khaltar and Cortal Ihetarm, and pyrondians are also found in good numbers.
The relative distance from the dark pyrondian territories has made Damoclides less directly involved in their conflicts, so that the kingdom focuses more on trade than war, with respect to the Empire of Pyrithis. Damoclides has a strong merchant marine, and is the major mercantile power of the planet.
The Damoclideans are not especially religious, although pyrondian druidism and some Dark Pyrithian cults of Demogorgon and other Immortal Fiends are found in the area.
The “Beautiful Crescent” is a temperate land outwards from the tasloi mainland, bordering the Sea of Pearls (Mukaince Chil, in the local language). It is inhabited by a pyrithian folk, the Yase Naslucum, or “Progeny of the sky”. They are divided into many petty kingdoms, of which the foremost two are centered around the cities of Uyum Khan and Kuc Thumuk. The Daltas Silizin (“Beautiful lady”), a powerful warrior queen, reigns in Uyum Khan, whereas the Asquringe Tham (“King of Flowers”) controls a nomadic army in the horselands of Hugure Maling. Kuc Thumuk is led by the homonymous council of elders and is an oligarchic republic.
The Juke Guspur (Dread Prince), one of the dark pyrondians, has been a longstanding threat to the region, sending his tasloi armies to plunder the land in their war canoes. In spite of this, no alliance among the Pyrithians of Sua Halanc has held for long.
The tasloi inhabit a set of islands and coastal regions around the inner sea. A jungle folk, the tasloi are mostly fishermen, hunters and fruit gatherers. They call themselves gininiba, that is the “later people”, in reference to their ancestors, the “first people” (taatniba), or simply “the people” (niba). The islands of Yabunge, Walige and Malige, as well as the coastal regions of Nidige and Alakuge, compose the “land of the people”, or Nibage.
A primitive, tribal folk, the tasloi do not have a central government or a unified religion. They live in small tribes, and worship their ancestors, the walaga.
The Beagle's Shipwreck
BC 4000. The FSS Beagle shipwrecks on Mystara. A number of scouting parties which had landed on Damocles are stranded on the surface of that planet, as their "Flying Eggs" are unsuited for star flight.
The Eggs' crews are mainly composed of experienced scouts and biologists, sent to Damocles to analyse the local lifeforms and capture interesting specimens. There are a number of e-bots on Damocles, too. Damocles is a verdant planet, inhabited by the pachydermions, an advanced, philosophical civilization with limited space-faring capabilities, and by other, less advanced races, among which are the ancestors of the tasloi.
The officers in charge of the Eggs contact the Beagle, and are ordered by Capt. Riesling to avoid contact with the locals and wait the rescue teams from the Federation. However, the officers are both removed from the control of Capt. Riesling and unable to adopt his policy of reducing the impact on the local environment by sending the crewmen to the stasis pods. In a few weeks it becomes clear to all that survival will become impossible unless some means of gathering food is obtained.
The Federation aliens use their technological skills to modify the e-bots programming to change them into useful hunters-gatherers, while a small number of e-bots is reserved for the exploration of the planet.
In the next year, it becomes evident that the Beagle is unable to leave Mystara, that Bork Riesling is losing his sanity, and that Damocles does not have a good supply of metallic minerals. The stranded aliens are locked in a stalemate, as they have the knowledge and tools, but not the materials, to start building a self-supporting village, and are forced to rely on their battery-powered tools and weapons instead.
In the following years, things only worsen as the Eggs' batteries are drained to recharge those of the commonly used tools and weapons. The alien crew is now unable to leave the surface, and most e-bots are inactive.
Rise of the Life Shapers
BC 4000-3800. At last, the alien biologists manage to achieve a degree of success in a project they have been working on during all of these years: they have modified one of their Eggs to work as a bioengineering laboratory, and have modified some native creatures of Damocles to become producers of useful tools like arrow heads. During the next decades, most technological items are replaced by bio-engineered creatures or tissues. Blasters, medkits and the like are now kept locked in one of the three surviving Eggs (the other having been dismantled and cannibalised for replacement parts).
Meanwhile, a new generation of aliens grows and is taught in the techniques of bioengineering more than in any other branch of Federation's science. During the next few generations, electronics, computer science and astrogation become "sage knowledge" limited to the few keepers of the Eggs.
The need for the Egg-laboratory ends as soon as fertile life-shaped creatures and mother-creatures for tissues are created. The keepers, knowing that the batteries are now able to power only one Egg, store all of the remaining energy in one of the Eggs, and lock all of them in a secret underground room in their compound.
BC 3500. The aliens start losing their historical memories, having already forgotten all of their scientific knowledge, save for life-shaping. Contact with the Beagle has been lost after only two centuries, and the historical records in the Eggs' computers are not accessible, as even the Keepers' lore is no longer clear enough to make them work.
The nebulous remains of the Federation's history and the early settlers history merge into a corpus of legends. The descendants of the Beagle crewmen call themselves “Pyrithians,” as they believe their ancestor have arrived on the planet riding a flaming meteor. They have built an ancestor cult, and their cultural level has dropped dangerously, as they have been unable to write properly, deprived of their technological devices. They have slowly developed an alphabet of rough, geometric symbols which they carve on bark.
The Pyrithian population has risen from the original 50 or so to a nation of 100,000, growing around the capital city, Pyrond. The nation of Pyrith is ruled by a council of elder life-shapers who decide over internal matters, as no contact has been established with the other sentient race of Damocles.
The Great Rain of Fire
BC 3000. By this time, the Pyrithian civilisation has grown so much that it is no longer united in a single nation. The Keepers' Council still rules the old Pyrond, but a number of warlike kingdoms have been created at the border of the Pyrithian lands.
A catastrophic event on Mystara is witnessed by the Pyrithian life-shapers. They consider Mystara the land were their ancestors went when they left Damocles, so the sudden increase in apparent magnitude of the planet is subject to all kinds of interpretations. Many link the celestial event with the recent discovery of other civilisations on Damocles, or with the divisions among the Pyrithians, starting a time of conflict both internal and with the bordering Damoclitean nations.
BC 2700. The life-shapers start creating grafts, in addition to the other kinds of life-shaped items.
Birth of the Pyrondians
BC 2000. By this time, Damocles is evenly divided between the Pyrithians and the other surviving races. Thanks to their life-shaped equipment, the Pyrithians have slowly gotten the upper hand and are dislodging the other sentient species, conquering them. Their march is hindered only by the internal struggles, as warrior-princes fight among themselves for power.
Meanwhile, the Keepers have worked to widen the genetic pool of the Pyrithians, who all descend from a small number of individuals. At the same time, they are trying to induce useful mutations in their own race. Their main concerns are the side effects of grafts, which limit their usefulness. To overcome them, the Pyrithians of Pyrond life-shape themselves, adding plant-like physiologic traits.
The Pachydermion Wars
BC 1000. By this time, the Pyrondians have gone a long way from their ancestors: they are now solid green in colour, and have pointed ears; moreover, they now reproduce by planting a cutting into a "mother". They are rather different from the common Pyrithian of the colonies, which now extend over more than three quarters of Damocles.
The other civilised races of Damocles have mostly died out, save for the pachydermions. This ancient species had already reached pinnacles of culture and clerical magic far before the Pyrithians managed to contact them. They had established a number of large extra-planetary colonies, reaching the asteroid belt around Damocles first, and Mystara's invisible moon, Patera, next.
When the pachydermions finally realised the extent of the Pyrithian expansion, they were almost alone in their defensive war. But they had the resources to fight against the invaders, who were forced to bring the war to the asteroids in order to block the influx of resources to the mainland.
Age of the Pirate Kings
BC 900. The Pyrithian civilisation suddenly start its decline. The war with the pachydermions has been short but very intense by Damoclitean standards, consuming much of the resources of both nations. The pachydermions are unable to take advantage of the Pyrithians' retreat from the border lands, and a wide buffer zone is formed around the pachydermion land.
The Pyrithian space troops, mostly hailing from the ranks of mutated pyrondians, start a new life as pirates in the asteroid belt, depleting it from its already scarce resources, and forcing the local pachydermions to flee for Patera.
BC 800. A new sub-race emerges from the piratical pyrondians, as power-hungry pirates use dark magics to contact outer planar beings. The new race has darker skin, and bright silvery hair, combined with sharp features and shining red eyes.
The main evolutionary step is actually a "regression" to the animal realm, justified by the need to survive in the deep space for long times. These Dark Pyrondians conflict with their cousins for supremacy.
Also, their ability to influence living creatures is stronger, and they become adept at extracting the quintessential qualities of the living and absorb them for their use, or to bind them to life-shaped items. The process is always lethal for the subject, unfortunately.
BC 500. By this time, Damocles is nearly isolated. The space pirates are now forced to search for plunder in their own homeland, causing the tensions between Pyrond and the other nations to grow. Pyrond's leadership has been taken by the Pirate Kings since the time of the Pachydermion War, and Keepers have nearly disappeared.
The Dark Pyrondians are defeated, and most leave with their dark knowledge, reaching the region of Mystara that would become the Northern Reaches. The imperfect mutation processes and the fiendish blood have by now given a long life span to the race, at the cost of a much reduced fertility. A few Dark Pyrondians remain on Damocles, working secretly to bring the downfall of Pyrond.
The Civil War
BC 400. A civil war, engineered by the Dark Pyrondians, destroys Pyrond, marking the end of the Pyrondians. Barbaric kingdoms ruled by the descendants of the generals of the Pachydermion Wars continue the fight for control of Damocles. The Pyrithian civilisation falls completely within a few generations.
The last three Keepers gather a small flotilla of like minded individuals and leave Damocles, trying to reach the Ancestors' Land. The refugees make landfall in the northern Davanian jungles and start establishing a new colony.
BC 200. The Dark Pyrondians on Damocles are by now reduced to a handful of individuals, mostly powerful life-shapers, whose unnaturally long life span brings to them great knowledge, but induces mental imbalance.
The Kingdom of Emerond
B150. The Mystaran colony founded around BC 400 is now large enough to be considered a kingdom. The political structure is formalised by the first three Protectors, who name the first King of Emerond. A policy of isolation is established and stubbornly kept for the next millennium.
The Protectors are the direct descendants of the Keepers, and have changed their names to signify their modified goals, as they are now going to protect not only their nation's culture, but also the nation itself and its land.
BC 50. On Damocles, the Pyrithians are reduced to a cultural level varying from Stone Age to Bronze Age.
AC 1. Each of the nine surviving dark pyrondian on Damocles has established himself as a powerful, nearly immortal "sorcerer". Some retreat to hidden refuges, creating servant races or attempting experiments with their techniques to increase their personal powers.
Pheazar, one of the dark pyrondians, a master of life-binding rituals, manages to contact his Mystaran relatives. They have by now established a mostly subterranean culture and a kingdom.
The Dark Pyrondians are in contact with the Modrigswerg, a clan of exiled Dwarves in the Northern Reaches, and have had some encounters with Schattenalfen or Shadow Elves. Noticing the similarity of their likenesses to legends of the Modrigswerg about a mysterious elven people, the "Svartalfen", they start naming themselves "Dark Elves", in order to establish a false history of their race on Mystara and achieve some degree of respect among the Modrigswerg, whom they see as suitable allies or minions for their plans.
The Dark Elves
AC 100. By this time, the Dark Elves have assumed a complete "elven" façade when dealing with native humans and humanoids. Pheazar, now known as Feasar in the Elven tongue, guides them from his refuge on Damocles.
A number of cultists of an Entropic Immortal reach the Dark Elven court -- possibly Alphatian renegades or an offshoot of the Nithian followers of Thanatos. The Dark Elven King Heltharm, or Eldalomë in Elven, allies with them, in an effort to dominate the world by summoning a number of fiends, binding them to powerful construct created by the Modrigswerg, and using them to conquer the neighbouring nations.
In future Antalian legends, these cultists will often be confused with the followers of the "Father of Demons" from the Modrigswerg legends.
AC 140. Pheazar comes to Mystara, thanks to the sacrifice of a captured creature endowed with natural teleport ability, perhaps a fiend of some kind.
AC 150. An Antalian army, alerted by omens from the Norse Gods, storms the fortress of the Dark Elves, destroying it before the summoning ritual is completed.
The attack is successful only because of the help of the Modrigswerg, Brokk and Sindri, who take advantage of the turmoil to sacrifice Pheazar, Heltharm, and seven other Dark Elven sages to create their masterwork, the Ring of the Nine Svartalfen.
On Damocles, a clone of Pheazar becomes active as the safeguards set by the dark pyrondian sorcerer are triggered by his death.
AC 200. On Damocles, the Pyrithians have recovered to a Medieval cultural level, though many regions are still in a Dark Age.
AC 300. By this time, Pheazar is back in control of his powers and resources, and has discovered what has happened on Mystara more than a century ago. Enraged, he strives to find a way of avenging his previous defeat. Luckily, the Dark Elves are now so few that they cannot be of any use, so Pheazar must search for more suitable allies.
AC 400. Pheazar discovers that part of his spirit is bound to the Ring of the Nine Svartalfen, as the "Feasar" command word is used by a power-hungry frost giant wokan. During the next century, he is slowly driven mad by the telepathic link with the bound spirit.
Since he is unable to travel to Mystara, Pheazar cannot destroy the Ring. He focuses his efforts on gaining more power, by gathering knowledge and life energy from any source.
AC 500. Currently, on Damocles the Pyrithians are the dominating race, making up more than 70% of the sentient population. The few remaining pachydermions (an insular, semi-nomadic culture devoted to religion and clerical matters) and pyrondians (now deprived of their cultural heritage and reduced to a race of druidic woodland beings) are tolerated by the dominant cultures.
The fiendish servant races of the Dark Pyrondians, more than a dozen in total, make up the remaining 20% of the population.
Pheazar has by now a complete knowledge of magic, though he is unable to use it himself (except for powers deriving from his demonic ancestry), a heritage of the Federation Aliens blood and the mutations induced in order to control life-shaping powers.
Since the Ring of the Nine Svartalfen is lost, and cannot be used, the telepathic link is somewhat disrupted by the dormant state of the Feasar spirit Pheazar is able to recover some degree of sanity and accomplishes great feats of life-shaping.
Age of Wizard-Lords
AC 600. Pheazar creates a life-shaped head graft, which can confer to a Pyrithian the ability to learn wizardly magic. Up to three grafts can be used by a single Pyrithian, each allowing three levels of spellcasting power.
Pheazar begins a campaign of conquest, sending his wizards to subjugate Pyrithian nations. The pachydermions and the Pyrondians are the strongest opposition to Pheazar plans, as they are to everything done by the Dark Pyrondians. Nations fallen under the sway of Pheazar outlaw and prosecute the two races, and welcome the servant races of Pheazar in their armies.
AC 700. Wizard servants of Pheazar storm the fortress of the Dread Prince, one of the other Dark Pyrondians, capture and sacrifice him in order to create a powerful device that will allow Pheazar to acquire wizardly powers.
AC 800. Pheazar is nearly ready to come back to Mystara, when five of the remaining Dark Pyrondians ally against him, drawing with them two powerful Pyrithian nations. However, Pheazar's new magical power grows fast and proves decisive.
The conflict lasts nearly half a century, leaving three more dark pyrondians dead, and Pheazar severely weakened.
AC 900. Pheazar has recovered his power. This time, no one is going to attack him while he teleports to Mystara, since he has allied with two of his former enemies, revealing to them the secret of magic-endowing grafts.
Meanwhile, on Mystara, the Ostman jarl Storverk recovers the Ring of the Nine Svartalfen, and uses it in an attempt to wrest power from the House of Cnute. As a consequence, Pheazar suffers of violent crisis of madness, and causes much destruction in his own lands.
AC 920. Storverk is killed by Hord Dark-Eye's father, and his treasure is confiscated by the King of Ostland.
Pheazar begins recovering from his madness. He is even more enraged, and starts a new plot. He starts collecting life energy, in order to cast an extremely powerful enchantment that will power him so that he will dominate the Ring, and its user. To do so, he is required to reach a power level equal to that of demigods.
The Last War
AC 960. The four surviving Dark Pyrondians meet with the Grand Druid of the Pyrondians, the High Trunk of the pachydermions, the Emperor of Pyrithis, and the High King of Damoclides --- all the major pyrithian nations. They ally to counter the mad actions of Pheazar, who is going to sacrifice the entire population of Damocles in his bid for power.
A great war begins between the Damoclean Alliance and Pheazar.
The Doom of Damocles
AC 1000. Alliance intelligence reports that Pheazar is ready to cast is spell. The clergy is convinced that he will ultimately fail, not having gathered enough life energy. However, his power is sufficient to destroy the whole of Damocles. They propose that all resources are pooled to create a sphere of protection that will preserve the planet and limit the power of Pheazar's enchantment. The Dark Pyrondians do not trust the priests and instead decide to attack Pheazar and stop him, but utterly fail.
As Pheazar loses control of his own spell, the magical energies that held Damocles together are released, and the planet explodes, resulting in complete destruction.
On Mystara, the Ring of the Nine Svartalfen is affected by the destruction of the Damoclitean part of Pheazar, so that the Pheazar spirit bound to the ring is now completely insane, and quite dangerous, if invoked. Luckily, the Ring is hidden in King Hord's treasury, so there is no immediate effect on Mystara.
AC 1005. A fragment of Damocles crashes on Mystara, destroying the Principalities of Caurenze and Silverstone in Glantri, and creating the Great Crater. The two largest fragments become the innermost and outermost planets of the Mystara solar system by AC 1010.
Denizens of Damocles
The Pyrithians are the base race, replacing humans in this setting, and share all the main characteristics of that race except for the fact that they cannot use wizardly magic. The Pyrithians are descendants of the grens, the aliens from the galactic Federation that arrived in the Mystara solar system on the FSS Beagle. The grens are a race of human-like beings, whose skin takes a green tint under the rays of the Mystaran sun. The inability to use wizardly magic was already a characteristic of the grens. Due to the life-shaping technology of Pheazar, in modern times Pyrithians can become wizards by adopting specialized grafts that bypass the natural limitations of the Pyrithean races in perceiving magic, or by channeling magic from external sources (e.g., via Warlock pacts in later D&D editions).
Dark Pyrithians are fiend-blooded Pyrithians. They use rules for tieflings from Planescape's "Planewalker's Handbook" in AD&D 2e, or the tiefling race in other rules sets. In BECMI D&D, Dark Pyrithians follow the rules for human characters, but have a 20% XP penalty and the following additional abilities: infravision 60’, base AC 8, +1 bonus to unarmed damage, a randomly chosen Saving Throw bonus, and a randomly chosen special ability. NPCs react with unease to the Dark Pyrithians, causing a -1 reaction penalty.
[Table: Dark Pyrithian Spell-Like Abilities]
Charm Person 1/day
Cause Fear 1/day
Detect Magic 1/day
Mirror Image 1/day
[Table: Dark Pyrithian Saving Throw Bonuses]
+2 vs Fire
+2 vs Cold
+2 vs Acid
+2 vs Electricity
+2 vs Poison
+1 vs Fire and Cold
+1 vs Acid and Poison
+2 vs Mind-affecting spells
Pyrondians are a humanoid race descended from the Pyrithians. They have engineered themselves through life-shaping techniques, adding plant-like physiological traits. They are solid green in colour, and have pointed ears. They reproduce by planting a cutting into a "mother".
The Pyrondians’ unusual physiology grants (in the AD&D 2e rules) them a +1 bonus to Constitution and a -1 penalty to Dexterity, as they are very resilient but somewhat sluggish. They have the ability to Speak with Plants once per day, a -2 penalty to ST vs Fire attacks and a +2 bonus to ST vs Cold attacks. Pyrondians have a minimum starting Constitution score of 6. They can access all character classes (although they suffer the same limitations as the Pyrithians with respect to wizardly magic), progressing to level 12 in most classes except Fighter (15), Ranger (15), and Druid (U). In newer rules sets, it is possible to use the killoren1 or wilden2 races as a substitute for the Pyrondians.
In BECMI D&D, pyrondians follow the rules for human characters, but have a 20% XP penalty, as well as the same abilities as in AD&D 2e.
Dark Pyrondians are to Pyrondians what Dark Pyrithians are to Pyrithians. Dark Pyrondians are limited in number, so they are unavailable as PCs -- all nine Dark Pyrondians are NPCs.
In this setting, pachydermions are one of the "native" races of Damocles. This means they either arrived on Damocles before the grens, or that they evolved on the planet. The Mystaran and Pateran pachydermions are very old colonies. The pachydermions settled Patera and Mystara because they have atmosphere and gravity that allow pachydermions to survive without magical support. Although there were nearer planets and asteroids to Damocles, none was as easy to settle. See the pachydermion article in this issue for a complete coverage of the race for both AD&D and BECMI, as well as suggestions for other rules set.
The Broken Ones
The Dark Pyrondians relentlessly pursue experiments in life-shaping on sentient beings. The results are sometimes viable races, but many more failed experiments happen than successful ones. These failed experiments are generally referred to as “Broken Ones”. They are available as player characters, as well as appearing as monsters.
In AD&D, Broken Ones use the rules from "The Making of Men" by the J. W. Mangrum3. Alternately, the mongrelmen can be used, following the rules in the Complete Book of Humanoids or the Player’s Option: Skills & Powers book. In BECMI, the beastmen rules from the Hollow World campaign setting can be used instead.
The Dark Pyrondians have created many servant races, often getting the design from their lower planar allies. While many of these creations end up as broken ones, some successful designs became true races in time.
Some AD&D monsters that could be used for servant races are:
Ettercaps were designed to hunt the Pyrondians. They live in wooded wildernesses, and train various types of giant hunting spiders.
Gibberlings are a servant race engineered to serve as shock troops for the dark pyrondians. They are only found in dungeon complexes designed and constructed by them, in particular in the sprawling fortress of Ragol in the Outer Ring mountains.
Some types of golems were designed, serving as guards or specialist troops. Dark pyrondians favor life-shaping, thus golems fashioned using organic materials are most likely, resulting in straw, wood and flesh golems4.
The winged urd were engineered from the same ancestors as the tasloi to serve as airborne soldiers. Cortal Ihetarm and Khaltar employ most of urd wings.
Mould men resulted from early experiments in life-shaping humanoids from plants. They have spread beyond the territories of the Dark Pyrondians, who have no use for them.
Tasloi are one of the most successful creations of the dark pyrondians, a race of jungle guerrilla fighters. They are based on an extinct race native to Damocles. The tasloi are found in many jungle areas near the center of Damocles.
Undead were not created by the Dark Pyrondians, who for the most part have no ability to wield magic, but dead bodies animated by life-shaped grafts with characteristics identical to those of undead zombies do exist.
Yuan-ti, Histachii were created from Pyrithian prisoners, splicing them with reptilian genes. They were originally minions of the Dread Prince, but after his demise they are found everywhere on Damocles as mercenaries, assassins, and hired spies.
Some outer planar monsters can be found on Damocles as the result of the dark pyrondians' summonings and deals with the lower planes. Although dark pyrondians do not normally use magic, they often ally with evil outer planar entities who can provide such powers. Baatezu only appear if Baator is used in the campaign cosmology. All lesser fiends are considered mortal in BECMI, although they do not age. Thus, they have no power points. Greater fiends are not normally found, since these are Immortal-level beings on par with the titans, or even the true Immortals. Typically, a dark pyrondian has a single, relatively powerful fiend as an “advisor”, and may also have a demonic “familiar”, such as an imp, quasit or spinagon. Wizard minions of the Dark Pyrondians, who start appearing after Pheazar develops magic-enabling grafts, also gain such familiars. Advisors are most often nabassu, maurezhi, erinyes and other fiends that typically travel to the prime material to corrupt or devour souls. These advisors then summon reinforcements, including the following monsters:
Mephits are messengers from the lower planes. Their elemental nature makes them less conspicuous than lesser fiends.
Lesser baatezu, such as the sbishai or the barbazu appear as spies, bodyguards and other specialised roles.
The Least tanar'ri, the manes and rutterkin are expendable infantry in the Dark Pyrondian armies, summoned by more powerful tanar’ri.
Alu-fiends and cambions are half-tanar'ric Pyrithians. They are bred late in Damocles’ history in an attempt to increase the magic potential of the Pyrithians.
Bar-lgura: rare, scouts and spies.
Other creatures from the Outer Planes or the Space can appear as mercenaries or envoys, but even the Dark Pyrondians are relatively cautious when dealing with summoned fiends, so most of these fiends belong to the lowest tiers.
The Dark Pyrondians
The Dark Pyrondians are fiend-blooded Pyrondians from the Pirate Age. There are two types of Dark Pyrondians. The more common kind is also known as "Dark Elves", and existed in the Mystaran Northern Reaches centuries ago, but their civilisation was destroyed by Antalian tribes.
The remaining Dark Pyrondians, who exist on Damocles, are a handful of powerful, nearly immortal life-shapers. The most important and powerful is Pheazar, also known as the Dark Elf Feasar on Mystara. There are nine Dark Pyrondian "sorcerers" on Damocles.
In AD&D (and possibly in newer rules set), these Dark Pyrondians have abilities equivalent to those of high level Psionicists. These are brought by their use of life-shaping to enhance their mental powers. Also, some Dark Pyrondians have discovered a way to enable their kind and other Federation alien-descended races to perceive and manipulate magic.
In BECMI, Dark Pyrondians are handled as monsters. They have 11-20 HD, AC 5, and save as Clerics of the same level as their HD. They attack with weapons, and have equivalent skill to a Master in the short sword, dagger, staff, or club. They also are able to cast a number of spells (replacing their psionic powers from AD&D). These spells work only on themselves, or, if they are attack spells, on a single target. They can cast spells of level lower than 4 at will, but they can only maintain 2 effects active at any time (regardless of the duration of the spell). They can cast spells of level 4 or higher only once per day. Their spells are grouped in four categories. All Dark Pyrondians have full access to the Defenses category, as well as to one other (called their primary discipline). They also access spells of level lower than 4 from a third category. Depending on their primary discipline, they also get a special bonus.
Defenses: Mindmask, Confuse Alignment, Mind Barrier.
Telepathy: Charm Person, Cause Fear, Sleep, ESP*, Hold Person; Charm Monster, Confusion, Hold Monster, Feeblemind, Power Word Stun. Special: Iron Will (+2 ST vs mind affecting magic).
Psychometabolism: Resist Cold, Resist Fire, Cure Light Wounds, Water Breathing, Protection from Poison, Protection from Lightning, Polymorph Self, Clone, Heal, Shapechange. Special: Biofeedback (-1 damage from all physical attacks).
Psychokinesis: Floating Disk, Levitate, Heat Metal, Protection from Normal Missiles, Striking, Telekinesis, Dimension Door, Teleport, Disintegrate, Sword. Special: Deflection (-1 AC bonus).
The most powerful of the Dark Pyrondians, Pheazar (AD&D: male dark pyrondian Psionicist 20, CE; BECMI: 20 HD, Telepathy/Psychokinesis, C) holds a vast dominion in the north-east of the planet. Pheazar visited Mystara at great risk due to his psionic signature, which would have attracted the attention of the mujina5. He is reputed to possess powerful magic items which allow him to masquerade as a dark-skinned elf.
Pheazar is unique in that he also has powers as a 20th level Wizard (Magic User in BECMI). He develops these powers at the beginning of the Age of the Wizard-Lords. Initially, he develops life-shaped grafts that confer the ability to cast spells of level 1-3. Then, through various rituals, which include harnessing the life-force of the Dread Prince )another Dark pyrondian) he develops full wizardly powers, up to level 20, which he reaches during the Last War.
The Dread Prince
The Dread Prince (AD&D male dark pyrondian Psionicist 17, NE, BECMI: 17 HD, Psychokinesis/Telepathy) was killed by Pheazar and his wizardly minions around AC 700, in order to harness his life-force to power Pheazar’s experiments with magic.
The Lost Three
The war against Pheazar saw an alliance of five Dark Pyrondians, of whom three died in the conflict. These were Gheertihz (AD&D female dark pyrondian Psionicist 14, NE, BECMI: 14 HD, Psychometabolism/Psychokinesis), Maekir (AD&D male dark pyrondian Psionicist 15, NE, BECMI: 15 HD, Telepathy/Psychometabolism), and the Scarlet Sorcerer (AD&D male dark pyrondian Psionicist 16, CE, BECMI: 16 HD, Psychokinesis/Telepathy, C). All three were killed by Pheazar between 835 and 840 AC.
Khaltar (AD&D female dark pyrondian Psionicist 13, NE, BECMI: 13 HD, Psychokinesis/Psychometabolism, C) was part of the first alliance against Pheazar. She survived the war, but grew to envy Pheazar’s powers. She eventually allied with him, and was given two magic-enabling grafts. Therefore, she acquired spellcasting powers as a 4th level mage. Later, she turned once more against Pheazar, allying with the other four Dark Pyrondians to stop his final bid for power. She likely died in the destruction of Damocles.
Urnham the Deep
An expert in marine lifeforms and related life-shaping, Urhnam the Deep (AD&D male dark pyrondian Psionicist 19, NE, BECMI: 19 HD, Psychometabolism/Telepathy) participated in both wars against Pheazar. He disappeared after the war in AC 800-850, and was rumoured to live in the deep sea. He wears conchshell life-shaped armor, giving him AC 0, as well as life-shaped gill and fin grafts. Like Khaltar, he likely died in the destruction of Damocles.
The only Dark Pyrondian with an interest in space exploration, Captain Cortal Ihetarm (AD&D male Dark Pyrondian Psionicist 18, CE, BECMI: 18 HD, Psychometabolism/Psychokinesis, CE) is a space pirate, leader of a Pyrithian fleet. He has a haven on one of the asteroids, and did not participate in the first war against Pheazar. He is rumored to have survived the Last War and the destruction of the planet, fleeing beyond Damocles’ atmosphere in his ship. He may be the only surviving Dark Pyrondian after 1000 AC.
Ragol of the Ring
Ragol of the Ring (AD&D male dark pyrondian Psionicist 12, NE, BECMI: 12 HD, Telepathy/Psychometabolism, C) gained the moniker from his lair in the Outer Ring, a foreboding region where the extreme cold of outer space freezes most lifeforms. As a life-shaper, Ragol specialized in creating devices and servants adapted to this environment. He is covered in a full-body graft that confers cold-resistance. Ragol did not oppose Pheazar until the last war, and actually allied with him after AC 850. He has acquired spellcasting powers as a 5th level mage from Pheazar’s grafts. Ragol likely died in 1000 AC during the destruction of Damocles, although his specialized grafts and powers may have kept him alive, perhaps in hibernation, on some asteroid.
Life-shaping was developed within the Dark Sun setting. It is fully described in "Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs" and "Psionics Artifacts of Athas". Basically, life-shaping is a sort of genetic engineering, allowing the operator (nature master) to create new animals or plants that can duplicate the effects of technological or magical items.
There are three classes of life-shaped items: creatures (plants or animals); tissues (raw living matter); and items produced by life-shaped creatures (silk, scales, etc). Life-shaped items and creatures can serve different purposes: tools (weapons, clothes); producers of other life-shaped items; replacing domestic animals; and, finally, grafts. A graft is a life-shaped items that binds to the flesh of an host, allowing him to access its powers. Note that the pyrondians are themselves life-shaped creatures.
This work is based on a set of discussions which started from Marco Dalmonte’s work on the Kingdom of Emerond and Andrew Theisen’s the Patera Files. James Ruhland (aka Porphy/Evil Genius) helped in brainstorming the use of Dark Sun's "life-shaping" as Emerond’s “biotech”. Jacob Skytte pointed out the inconsistencies between this timeline and Northern Reaches canon history. Finally, Giulio Caroletti revised the whole timeline, and pointed out many confusing or inconsistent points. Remaining inconsistencies are, of course, the author’s fault.
The languages of Damocles have been designed starting, as usual for Mystara, from real world counterparts. In particular, the pachydermion language is inspired by Khmer, the tasloi language is inspired by the Iatmul language from Papua New Guinea, and the language of Sua Halanc is inspired by Burushaski, a language isolate from Pakistan. Note that such derivations are ridden with heavy handed simplifications, and names are not meant to be correct in the source language -- merely to present a relatively coherent set of patterns. However, the source languages can be used to derive more place and personal names, to create more detailed maps of Damocles. These choices are in part related to pre-existing affinities -- Kompor-Thap, the pachydermion homeland on Myoshima, is supposed to mirror real-world Cambodia. In the case of Sua Halanc, an isolate has been chosen to stress the alien nature of the Pyrithians with respect to Mystaran cultures. Finally, the tasloi language has been modeled on a jungle culture, once more with few linguistic ties to cultures already mapped to Mystaran civilizations.
Finally, the map of Damocles in this article contains a reference to the “Forbidden City”. This is a reference, of course, to the classic AD&D adventure, “Dwellers of the Forbidden City” by David “Zeb” Cook. The adventure does not have a place on Mystara, as it includes many non-BECMI monsters. However, it feels very appropriate for Damocles, so a good placement is provided.
1See Races of the Wild for this D&D 3e race.
2See Player’s Handbook 3 for this D&D 4e race.
3The article appears in “The Book of Souls”, edited by the Kargatane.
4See Van Richten’s Guide to the Created for a coverage of unusual Golems.
5According to the AD&D 2e Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix, a Mujina’s true form can be detected by psionics. Thus, the Mujina hunt down psionicists to avoid discovery.