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History of Davania in Mystara products

by Francesco Defferrari from Threshold Magazine issue 5

History of Davania in Mystara products

In 1985 Frank Mentzer authored the black box Master rules set. Included within this set was the map1 for the world of Basic Dungeons and Dragons, which had not yet received the name Mystara. The map was the first depiction of the Davanian continent, with some mysterious lands dubbed the Four Kingdoms, Arypt, Addakia, and the Matriarchy of Pelatan. However, no detailed description was given to such places. In 1988, The Elves of Alfheim and Five Shires gazetteers stated that elves and halflings had come from Davania in the remote past. In 1989, the Dawn of Emperors the Thyatis and Alphatian (purple) gazetteer boxed set, written by Aaron Allston was published. It included the Thyatian occupied Four Kingdoms, which became, under the name of Thyatian Hinterlands, the first Davanian lands described in detail. Yet the major turning point for the continent came in January 1990, when, in Dragon Magazine 153, Bruce Heard commenced the series entitled “Voyages of the Princess Ark.”

[Sidebar: Timeline of published Mystara products referring Davania]

1987: AC11 The Book of Wondrous Inventions, Bruce Heard mentions the Land of the Earthshakers.

1988: Gazetteer 5 by Steve Perrin The Elves of Alfheim. The elves came from Evergrun, below Davania and now at the south pole.

1988: Gazetteer 8 by Ed Greenwood The Five Shires. The halfling too came from Davania.

1989: Dawn of Emperors, Thyatis and Alphatia by Aaron Allston. Thyatians lived in Davania for centuries, the Milenian Empire is also mentioned.

1989: PC2 Top Ballista by Carl Sargent, the Kingdom of Katapec in Arypt is mentioned.

1990: Hollow World Campaign Set by Aaron Allston. The Milenian Empire, once a powerful nation in Davania, is described. The migration map gave hints about the history of Davania, as two Tanagoro colonies from Skothar in Izonda and Vulcania, and more.

1990: Dragon Magazine 153-158, the first part of Voyages of the Princess Ark, set in Davania.

1991: Dragon Magazine 166: Princess Ark in Emerond.

1992: Poor Wizard's Almanac by Aaron Allston. In Geographic Overview entries about Davania, Emerond and the Hinterlands, giving more details on these regions. Also a color map depicting north eastern Davania.

1992: HW3 The Milenian Empire by Anthony Herring. Details on the history of the Milenian Empire in Davania.

1993 Champions of Mystara Heroes of the Princess Ark by Ann Dupuis, re-published in a box the Dragon Magazine series, but with only a brief summary on the first episodes set in Davania.

1993 Poor Wizard's Almanac II by Ann Dupuis, as the previous one.

1994 Poor Wizard's Almanac III by Ann Dupuis, as the previous ones, although the color map showed the Alphatian Sea rather than Davania.

1998: Dragon Magazine 247, article about Rakasta.

The Map: In the first Princess Ark article, the protagonist, Alphatian admiral Haldemar of Haaken, mocked the name tags on the “Nithian (Mentzer’s) Map,” attributing it to a Thyatian general who gave fake names to lands, inspired by his wife, mistress, dog, and even a brand of cheap beer. In a later letter in Dragon Magazine, Bruce stated that the map could still have some truth in it.

Snakelike natives: After the Four Kingdoms, the first people Haldemar meet are the “original natives”2 of Davania, described as “short, copper skinned with blowguns and snakelike shamans with powerful magic.” This culture of the Manacapuru tribal lands will be further described in similar terms by Ann Dupuis in Poor Wizard’s Almanac II, published in 1993, as inhabited by: “copper-skinned natives who honor snakelike immortals and wield poisonous weapons”, “savagely repelling any intruders.”

Synn and Night Dragons: In Dragon 154 the Princess Ark visits the island of Oceania where Haldemar meets the Night Dragons and Synn, a recurring villain that will have a huge impact on the series and Mystara3. Synn was supposed to be the queen of Night Dragons in Oceania, where she guarded a mysterious, ancient secret.

Wulf, Synn and other dragons: In Dragon 171,4 Bruce Heard wrote an article about the draconic personalities of the Known World. As he stated that other dragons should view Night Dragons as abominations, Synn moving to Glantri in canon Almanacs could led to some interesting developments. It also seems clear from what is written in Dragon 164 that Synn could control Wulf von Klagendorf and she placed him as head of the Heldannic order.5 However in another story that Bruce Heard wrote on the Mystara Message Board about the future of the Heldannic order6 Wulf picks a fight against the dragon Pyre and (temporarily) wins, and seems to have become a force of law rather than chaos.

Gulf of Mar geopolitics: In Dragon 155 and 156 Haldemar meets the inhabitants of Cestia and escapes with some difficulties the Heldannic Knights in Vanya’s Rest. In Dragon 157, he visits the fallen kingdom of Varellya on the Vulture Peninsula and meets its cursed inhabitants, the nagpas. Then in Dragon 158 Haldemar encounters the civilized (but flesh eating slavers) culture of the N’djatwa, with whom he makes a treaty on behalf of the Alphatian empire. Bruce Heard returned to that area between 1995 and 1998 in the AOL Mystara message board discussing the Heldannic Knights, portraying their defeat at the hands of the Simbasta,7 who became overseers of the order in Davania. Bruce also returned on the nagpas in a recent article on his blog.8

The Snartan Empire: Another interesting Davanian culture was born in AC11 Book of Wondrous Inventions, where Bruce Heard wrote in the entry “Jaggar’s Transforming Gargantoid” about a land “beyond the Sea of Dread” where Alphatian outposts fight against the gnomes and their Earthshakers. Back in 1987, that could be one of the first developments of Davania. Bruce Heard returned on this topic in 1998 on the Mystara Message Board, introducing the gnomish Snartan Empire.9 The Earthshaker’s existence was also hinted in Dragon 158. (“Most surprising was the old female’’s mention of the lands that lie farther to the east. Ngezitwa said that it was the realm of the titans, huge creatures that seem to spend their time fighting and destroying each other.”)

Emerond: After being moved in the future of 2000 AY, Haldemar returned to Alphatia and then visited the Isle of Dawn, Ochalea, and later the Kingdom of Emerond,10 an alien culture with interesting relations with plants and insects, in Dragon 166.

Adakkian colonies: From 1995 onwards Bruce Heard also joined the discussions on the Mystara Message Board, once again shaping whole areas of Mystara, for example introducing Savage Coast nations’ colonies in the Adakkian Sound,11 giving a picture of Davania as something of a mirror of 1500-1800 South America and Africa, with multiple colonial powers competing, as in the later story of Doc Purringstone.12

Pelatan and Izonda: The Princess Ark never visited Western Davania but Bruce Heard has mentioned it twice. Replying to a letter in Dragon 164 he wrote that “Amazons would be likely to be in the region originally called the Matriarchy of Pelatan, on the Southern continent. Perhaps that old Nithian map had some truth to it!” He also returned on the topic in 1995 in AOL Mystara Message Board,13 writing that “Else, some years ago I did play around with the idea of amazon warriors controlling Izondia (historical inspiration pretty shaky). It was an option for a future trip aboard the Princess Ark. Izondia would have been a militocracy where women dominate society. Early in their history, women of that civilization received a special blessing from their patron Immortal(s) (one of them probably being Vanya14 of course) which gave them a clear advantage over their males companions. As a result, their society progressively became matriarchal. Since then, however, the effects of the blessing have become very rare, perhaps limited to a small clerical elite. But it no longer matters. Izondian culture is now solidly set in its old ways. Details beyond this are up to anyone's imagination.”

Rakasta: Another great, if indirect, development of Davania was done by Bruce Heard in 1998 in Dragon Magazine 247, with an article detailing the rakasta breeds of Mystara, many of which still live on the southern continent.15

1 Reproduced here by Thorfinn Tait:

2 At least, those who occupied the Four Kingdoms region before the Hinterlanders

3 Shell even become the main antagonist in the 1996 Capcom videogame Shadow over Mystara, even if she appears as a red dragon

4 The article is also here:

5 See:

6 See:

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14 The choice of patron immortal depends upon when it is decided that Pelatan culture evolved. If the culture is older the Vanya then perhaps Khoronous, Vanyas patron could be a suggestion

15 Article reproduced and expanded here: