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George’s Pathfinder Mystara Campaign

by Giorgio

Over at the Mystara 3E Conversion forums Havard expressed interest in my under development Pathfinder: Mystara campaign, so I thought I would share my notes here in case others might be interested. This is a work in progress of my notes and will be subject to updates as I keep working on my campaigns development.

Note: This is a long post so if the above paragraph got your attention keep reading, if it didn’t stop now and move on to the next post, it’s ok, I don’t mind.

I decided to go with the Pathfinder [AKA D&D 3.75] rules because I am comfortable with the D&D 3.5 rules (and Pathfinder improves on them), all my games in the last 10 years have been on this rule set, my players are familiar or learning it already and I have two bookshelves of D&D 3.0/3.5 books that I want to use. As Pathfinder is in my view 95-98% compatible with the 3.5 rules, and polishes and/or streamlines some of that rules problem areas, it is the rule set that I need to run my game.

Other rules sets don’t interest me (like the d6, GURPS, or alternate d20 systems) and the current version of D&D I dislike for various reasons. I played in that system for over six months and while I had a good time as a player, I would not want to run a game as a GM.

Why Mystara as my campaign choice? Because I need a break from my favorite campaign setting (Dragonlance 3.5) and my previous campaign (Pathfinder: Dragonstar) ended when half the players left (one got activated for military duty, one got a new non-gamer girlfriend, another had a baby… you know the drill.), and so I wanted something different. I already had in my library some Basic D&D/Mystara stuff from the 80-90s and that seem like a good change of pace, especially since I was able to get all the Thunder Rift pdfs from before they got pulled.

Since I lack a VAST majority of the published Basic D&D/Mystara books, especially the BECMI rules, and information is scattered all over the place due to a lack of a Mystara Campaign Setting Sourcebook I will not be running a “traditional” , “classic” or “cannon” style campaign. Instead I will be taking what elements of the setting I like and mixing it up a bit to create something I will enjoy running and something I hope my players will enjoy playing in.

While I was going to initial go with the Thunder Rift as my starting point for my campaign, a
survey questionnaire of my players revealed that the primary characteristics they wanted in a new campaign was adventure, exploration, and combat. So now they are going to join the League of Loreseekers, Explorers and Adventures (LLEA) and be assigned a small exploration class airship so they can embark on a wide variety of exploration missions all over the planet.
I will now be able to have them enjoy adventures all over the surface of Mystara, and explore countless new races, civilizations and monsters!

*Campaign Development:
Already selected a rules system (Pathfinder and D&D 3.5), campaign setting (Original D&D Mystara/Know World campaign setting, with modified timeline and custom details), overall power level (high magic, renaissance tech level circa earth 1500 AD , low Psionics), mayor campaign elements (ancient world, airships, firearms, psionics, undead) and mayor campaign storyline.

Changes to cannon Mystara material include:

-Add Psionics as per Psionics Unleashed, and incorporate many of the ideas found on the Psionics in Mystara thread here (like developing psionics in the Serpent Peninsula/Sind region, and creating an Oriental Adventures civilization where psionics, not magic, is dominant).

-Expand fire arms beyond that of the Savage Coast. Magical firearms already exist in the Savage Coast and they are limited to that region by the magical nature of smoke powder and the Red Curse (from my understanding). I want to take that known magical technology, make it non-magical and extend it threw out the rest of the world. It should be logical that eventually a non-magical version will be created by some enterprising merchant, adventurer, engineer or military group. I place dwarves and gnomes as top possibilities for this. Roger mentioned Rockhome and Darokin, and that seems like a good place to start!

As for balance, I want to place firearms in the Matchlock era when it just started to spread (in other words not that advanced), and in game terms firearms are mechanically not better than a bow (again as it was in real history). In the real world it took centuries for firearms to replace the sword/bow, and that is not even taking into account magic (like protection from normal missiles) and the inevitable defenses that spellcasters would create to protect themselves.

I will potentially buying Campaign Overlay: Fantasy Firearms if the reviews are good.

-Increase airships availability and impact on the world. I will be posting a separate thread on this, as I want to understand well the implications of my changes before I start my first adventure.

-Races: Increase availability of half-elves and half-orcs from unique to very rare. I will also allow other non-core races as on a case by case basis (such as Lupins, Tortles, Rakashas..)

-Remove Hollow World from the setting. I have no interest in this aspect of the setting, and have more than enough material just on the surface of the planet to last me years. While I was going to take Rogers advice and leave the option open, the fact that my players will have access to an airship already gives me more than enough places on the surface to visit, so I don’t really need a hollow world setting.

-Replace the Worldshield and Airshield with normal Earth sized planet and physics. I will leave the planet non-magical so I can concentrate my limited time to creating adventures for my airship equipped PCs to visit.

-Replace 150+ Immortals with a hybrid of D&D 4E Pantheon, PF rules and Mystaran Spheres. Here is a sample:

“Immortals are not aligned on the Good-Evil alignment axis, but on the Order-Chaos axis. There are six immortals of Order (Moradin, Bahamut, Erathis, Ioun, Asmodeus, Bane), eight immortals of Balance (Pelor, Kord, Avandra, Melora, Raven Queen, Tiamat, Vecna, Zehir) and six immortals of Chaos (Corellon, Sehanine, Lolth, Torog, Gruumash, Tharizdun).

This section describes the Immortals of Mystara. Each Immortal draws its power from one of the five Spheres of Magic: Matter, Thought, Time, Energy, or Entropy. The Immortals of one Sphere tend to ally with each other more than they do with the Immortals of other Spheres, though that does not mean they are in friendly terms. Nor does it mean that they do not associate with Immortals of other spheres at all. However, the Spheres tend to unite Immortals around particular ideals and alignments, and thus are easier to group that way.

Immortals of the Sphere of Matter: Asmodeus (LE), Bane (LE), Erathis (LN), Moradin (LG)

Immortals of the Sphere of Thought: Bahamut (LG), Ioun (LN), Tiamat (NE), Vecna (NE)

Immortals of the Sphere of Time: Kord (NG), Pelor (NG), Melora (N), Raven Queen (N)

Immortals of the Sphere of Energy: Avandra (NG), Zehir (NE), Corellon (CG), Sehanine CG)

Immortals of the Sphere of Entropy: Lolth (CN), Torog (CN), Gruumash (CE), Tharizdun (CE)

A mortal Cleric need not follow an actual Immortal. They may worship a Sphere itself. For this reason, each of the spheres was given domains and alignments.”

The full document on my Mystaran immortals is 4 pages long…

The Pathfinder GameMastery Guide has 30 questions a GM should consider when creating his campaign world. I will be writing them up and my answers here in a follow up post later.

*House Rules:
House rules I just started working on my initial list and a few things are already determined:

-Slow XP Progression table will be used to allow for a slower pace and time for the PCs to really develop their characters. I want to include a lot of skill challenges, exploration and NPC interactions as viable ways to gain XPs.

-PCs start with double maximum initial HP, and will roll two dice for new HPs each time they level, taking the highest roll.

-PCs receive both +1 HP and +1 skill point when they take a favored class, as I encourage single class characters, and don’t want the book keeping hassle of remembering if a player took one option or the other each level.

-Multi-class characters are available but the additional class choice must be approved in advance and the player has to acquire the needed training/skills in game, they just do not appear out of nowhere or are “assumed” to be acquired on the PCs downtime.

-Players receive bonus skill points for Craft, Knowledge, Perform and Profession skills, as I want to encourage non-combat skills and role playing skills.

-PCs receive additional feats at 1st level to reflect background development and racial options.

Those are just a few, more to come as I keep working on my campaign.

I know I am going to use elements of the Mystara 3E Conversion Project even though it is not yet finished. I know I am going to use various VOP resources, but it is going to take time to read threw the HUGE number of articles to see which ones are useful to my game. I also know that I want to use various books from my D&D library and I have to determine which ones to use and not (and to be fair to the players let them know every time I add more books to the list). Which of those above reference I am adding to my game I don’t know yet, but I will be sure to keep good notes on what I am including and why.

I am also open to players wanting to add material to the game, as long as I get a chance to check the material out first and see if it fits or not with the rest of the campaign.

So far I have my players express interest in creating the following PCs for the game (more details as they develop their characters).

-Female Gnome Specialist (NPC, Expedition Leader)
-Male Dwarf fighter (axe and shield style, Rockhome)
-Male Elf Wizard (Conjuration school, Alfhiem)
-Female Human Fighter (Archery combat style)
-Male Half-Elf Ranger (Archery combat style)
-Female Human Witch (Elemental Patron, Fox familiar)
-Female Avariel Druid or Rogue (undecided)
-Male Dwarf Cleric of Moradin
-Male Saurian Samurai (Order of the Warrior, M-Orient)
-Male Hobgoblin Psion (from Davania)

Based on everyone’s busy schedule, it looks like our first game will be in mid April. I hope to start a campaign journal and post our adventures here.