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Once in a Blue Moon - Nations of the Midlandsby John Calvin from Threshold Magazine issue 15
Eerie and alluring, the dark interior world of Matera that Sharon Dornhoff, Geoff Gander, and others, envisioned almost 15 years ago continues to fuel my imagination even to this day. In this issue of Threshold we will explore the Hollow Moon’s Midlands region, a heavily forested area south of the Spindrift Sea, and delve into the nations and cultures that thrive therein.
As a special note, I would also like to bring to your attention, that while Sharon Dornhoff (especially), Geoff Gander, and others, have written extensive materials on the Hollow Moon, we are now treading into areas that are considerably less detailed. Although the initial seed for the nations and cultures detailed below was pulled from Sharon’s original work, you will find that I have largely injected my own thoughts, preferences, and ideas in fleshing them out … and we are still only scratching the surface.
I would like to encourage anyone reading these articles, who may be interested or inspired by their material, to contribute to the continued development of the Hollow Moon setting by participating in discussions on The Piazza forums. I hope to see you there!
Lunar Properties (Getting Re-Acquainted)
The Hollow Moon is a vast and strange setting, and many of its properties are quite alien when compared to a world like Mystara. This section will help readers become acquainted with all of the bizarre characteristics of the moon that inhabitants of the interior of Matera take for granted. In addition to the material presented here, the readers may also wish to revisit the Once in a Blue Moon articles in Threshold Issues #2 http://pandius.com/Threshold_2, #4 http://pandius.com/Threshold_4, #9 http://pandius.com/Threshold_9, #10 http://pandius.com/Threshold_10, and #13 http://pandius.com/Threshold_131.
Matera’s interior is a dark and mysterious world and the links back to Mystaran cultures are undeniable, however cultures living inside of Matera are very different from their ancestors. When first envisioning the Hollow Moon, one of Sharon Dornhoff’s original intentions was to create a setting that matched the classic noir environment she was building, in which wit, deception, and subtlety could triumph over more brute force methods of play. One way to ensure this, and to distinguish the Hollow Moon from other game settings, was to alter the way that magic works.
Magic functions differently inside of the Hollow Moon for two main reasons; the crystal firmament which comprises Matera’s shell, and the Spell of Remembrance which was placed upon the Hollow Moon after the catastrophe of the Saurolunarian Conflict.
The blue crystalline shell of the Hollow Moon is unlike any other material found in the Mystaran solar system, though certain immortals speculate that it may have a connection with Mystara’s own World Shield ore. Unlike Mystara’s World Shield, the crystal firmament has long since cooled and hardened. Light passes through it, but little else. Heat is siphoned away from anything touching its surface, and its arcane nature prevents any magical travel, either through the Prime Material, or by other planar means, from piercing its surface.
Spell of Remembrance
Early in Matera’s history, back when the Hollow Moon contained only a handful of cultures from the Carnifex Era, the antics of Demogorgon, a crazed Entropic immortal, nearly destroyed everything that the other immortals had built in the dark world. A pteryx2 in her mortal life, Demogorgon and her people had been plagued by the constant brutality of the carnifex nations. After attaining immortality, she sought her revenge. Goaded on by her patron Thanatos, Demogorgon spurred her people into a genocidal frenzy that nearly resulted in the extermination of the ur-carnifex tribes of Matera’s Jura Peninsula.
While the immortals did want a dark world sanctuary for their favorite nocturnal cultures, they did not want to impose the strictures of the Hollow World’s Spell of Preservation on Matera. As a compromise, they developed the Spell of Remembrance3, which allows societies to evolve and grow, but ensures that they will never forget their cultural identity.
In general there are two types of magic that do not work within the Hollow Moon; spells that tap into other planes or dimensions, and spells that affect mental capacity and memory. The former are blocked by Matera’s crystal bedrock, and the latter are restricted by the immortal magic of the Spell of Remembrance.
Spells of Memory
Spells of Holding
Spells of Spiritual Inquiry
Spells of Extraplanar Summoning
Spells of Instantaneous Travel
Spells of Command at a Distance
Spells of Earthly Summoning
Spells of Mass Destruction
Spells of Illumination
Spells of Charming
Spells of Mind Reading
Spells of Invisibility
Spells of the Spectrum
Materan Monsters and Abilities
While the properties of Matera’s crystal bedrock and the Spell of Remembrance may wreak havoc with the abilities of spellcasters, they do not hinder the natural special abilities possessed by magical monsters6. Kopru for example, still maintain the ability to manipulate and control the minds of their opponents, despite the fact that a spellcaster in the Hollow Moon can’t cast spells that charm or read minds.
Regions of the Midlands
The following regions and features of note can be found within the Midlands.
The Margastan Tri-isthmus rests directly in the center of three of the largest seas in the Hollow Moon: Mare Fecunditatis, Mare Tranquillitatis, and Mare Nectaris. Storms occur frequently here, drenching the Hollow Moon’s only temperate rainforest7 in a constant downpour. The Tri-isthmus holds the further distinction of being one of the brighter places in Matera’s interior, especially during fulldark when sunlight pushes its way up through the ocean depths.
A vast ridge that spans all the way from Mount Piccolomini in the southern highlands dawnward to Mount Catharina in the northwest. The broken lands formed from the scarp are rife with canyons, ravines, and gullies creating a maze of stone and rock morphed into every size and shape imaginable.
Mare Fecunditatis8 is the first eastern sea to catch the warming light of true dawn every month. Fecunditatis lies directly over the equator, and although technically the sea reaches all the way to the crystalline firmament of the Hollow Moon, Fecunditatis is so overgrown with coral that it is one of the shallower seas in Matera’s interior. The silicate based life forms covering the seabed have been specially designed by the immortals to transmit light through their skeletal systems, making Fecunditatis nearly as bright as the other nearby seas during fulldark, and teaming with just as much, if not more, sea life. Atolls and reefs abound throughout the sea, making its traversal quite dangerous by any other than seasoned sailors, or those who have detailed navigational charts at hand.
In comparison to Mare Fecunditatis, Mare Tranquillitatis is much deeper with a sandy sea floor. Its darker, glassy, waters are rarely broken by island or wave, and its murky depths remain a mystery to those sailing above. Many who sail its waters claim that an eerie silence belies their calm nature. Those who tarry on the sea for too long are never seen again, though whether their fate was sealed by internal madness or some dark force upon the sea, none can say.
Mare Nectaris is classified as one of the Hollow Moon’s six seas, or bodies of water that directly cover the crystal firmament. As such, light does pass through its waters during fulldark, illuminating surrounding regions in a dim, diffuse, blue-green glow. True to its name, Mare Nectaris is a freshwater sea9; the only one10 existing in the Hollow Moon.
Nations of the Midlands
On Mystara’s Outer World
Circa BC 2000, the aranea of the Savage Coast begin to experience an ever increasing strain with their neighbors, even as a small group of refugees from far away Taymora seek shelter in nearby lands, bringing with them the dreaded affliction of Mythic Lycanthropy11. The increasingly paranoid aranea see a silver lining in this new threat. With their magic, they mold the curse to their own purposes, creating the perfect disguises for themselves … humanoid forms. These new shape shifting aranea call themselves Herathians, and seek to hide their entire race from prying eyes by infecting them all with the strain of Herathian Lycanthropy12.
Pockets of uninfected aranea attempt to resist the zealotry of their brethren, but with little success. It is apparent to the immortals that soon all aranea in the region will be Herathian shapeshifters, and in order to preserve the pure aranean culture, they decide to move some of the last resistance fighters and their phanaton servants to the Hollow Moon.
In the Hollow Moon
Their memories removed and altered during their transport from Mystara to Matera, the surviving groups of aranea began associating themselves in nine “tribes”13, each lineage being traced back to their distinct city of origin on their old world. Being few in number, all of the tribes banded together to create the Holy City of Aran on the ridge of Altai Scarp, where they dwelled for centuries while their numbers increased.
In time, the population of Aran grew, and tribes began to bicker and fight amongst themselves. Fearing the wrath of the immortals, should the aranea of Aran once again fall into civil war, the leaders of the nine tribes instigated the “Diaspora,” splitting the tribes from the City of Aran across the empty territory surrounding their new home. The nine tribes set out, from the Altai Scarp to Mare Nectaris, each founding a city of their own, all except the ninth tribe of Nephil, which disappeared into the darkness, never to be seen again.
Modern Aranites are renowned throughout the Hollow Moon, both for their magical prowess, as well as their shipbuilding skills. Silken windships float from the cliffsides of Aran duskward toward Cacklogallinia and Vedal, as well as dawnward to the distant shores of Mare Humorum and the Outland Forests.
Tradition governs every aspect of life for the Aranite Tribes. Each of the eight remaining tribes are known for specializing in a particular craft and the role that it plays in their greater society. The tribe of Cteniz is famed for the silken structures they hang on cliffsides and steep mountainous slopes. Aranea of the Hepta tribe know few equals in the arts of hunting and trapping, while those of Taran field the best soldiers in the country. Argiop and Tetrag both are masters at windship crafting, and their vessels ply the windways of Aran across the interior of the Hollow Moon.
Regardless of their specialization, all the tribes of Aran share one thing in common, their devoted fanaticism to the arcane arts. Aranea are magical creatures by their very natures, with even the most unskilled of them able to cast simple spells. Those who show true mastery of the arts become revered teachers, and quickly rise up as leaders to their people. In fact Aran society tends to be very fractured, with many competing sects, each purporting to follow the teachings of a specific master. When irreconcilable disputes arise, Aranites turn to the Baghe tribe, mystical philosophers and the undisputed masters of magic within Aran.
Because of the vast amount of arthropoid life in the Hollow Moon, few cultures within Matera feel the same kind of visceral aversion to aranea as did those on Mystara, and because of this the aranea are widely accepted, and even valued by others. Phanatons, brought from Mystara to the Hollow World with the Aranites so long ago, are completely integrated into Aranite society. They find labor in Aran as fishermen, insect ranchers, and laborers, generally gravitating toward tasks that the aranea can not be bothered to do for themselves.
While most Aran cities are built far from any active volcanoes in the Hollow Moon, a few rumbling peaks still make their presence known. Mount Madler in the north erupts every 7 years, spewing fire and stone over both Mare Tranquillitatis and Mare Nectaris. Mount Piccolomini and Rothmann Ridge just beyond Aran’s southern borders erupt every 72 years and 3 years respectively. While Mount Piccolomini covers the land in smoke and ash, Rothmann Ridge ejects waves of fire that cascade through its desolate domain.
Fracastorius Crater, the ominous caldera where the Nephil tribe purportedly disappeared, is avoided by most. It periodically spews forth multicolored gasses which can have unpredictable effects on those who breath the fumes. Once every 167 years, Fracastorius Crater opens up and belches forth lava and ash that can reach all the way to the Altai Scarp.
An ancient artifact has just been unearthed by Aranite scholars in ruins on the outskirts of Aran. The artifact, thought to hail from the Aranites original homeworld, is presumably tied to the Lost Tribe of Nephil which practiced dark arts and harbored the worship of Aracnhe Prime. All who come into contact with the artifact seem cursed, for it leaves a trail of death and destruction in its wake. In actuality, these tragedies are being perpetrated by a small group of Nephil who have skittered back up from the depths of the world to reclaim their lost treasure.
Silken airships have always been attacked by dark forces over the waters of Mare Tranquillitatis, but now those attacks have expanded beyond the coasts of the tranquil sea. The Shadows of Maskelyne have not forgotten the role that aranea played in their culture’s downfall before being moved to the Hollow Moon and have taken the next step in their war with the aranea. Unless the PCs can intervene and broker a deal between the shadows and Aranites, windship travel will be disrupted across Matera.
A rash of attacks by giant wasps, natural deadly spider-hunters, breaks out in the west. When elves are seen in their presence, the Aranites assume that the Vesperlands are preparing for war, but the truth is even more disturbing. It is not the elves attacking Aran, but elven hivebrood aberrations from Pynar. The hivebrood hope to add the Aranites’ distinctive magical abilities into their hive.
Map on Pandius
On Mystara’s Outer World
With the decline of Nithia, a small but powerful nation begins to rise near the modern day city of Parsa in the Emirate of Makistan. These are the Cynidiceans, a group of Doulakki that have seized a new home for themselves from goblinoid infested wilds. Throughout the eighth century and beyond, they defend their homeland from encroaching goblinoids, degenerate Nithians, and all manner of hostile neighbors. Unfortunately for the Cynidiceans, it is the internal insidious threats from within their own culture that will eventually be their undoing.
Plagued by Zargonite cultists, and overwhelming bands of Antalian raiders from the north, the Cynidiceans finally falter circa BC 50. Rather than leave their homeland however, they retreat inward, to hidden caverns under their once great civilization, where they rebuild their great city of Cynidicea in the darkness. Yet even this brief respite will not last. After centuries of living underground the Cynidicean culture slowly begins to collapse. Their restricted living environment coupled with an ever growing influence of Zargon worship and drug use, cripples this once great people, and in AC 31114 their patron immortals whisk them away to Matera’s interior.
In the Hollow Moon
Sheltered from their neighbors and left in relative isolation, the Cynidiceans are finally able to grow and develop free from the constant attacks suffered when they lived on Mystara. They rebuild the city of Cynidicea under the dim light of Matera’s interior, and then quietly begin to expand, subjugating much of the alpine territory in the southern Midlands.
As the nation expands, each of the three original factions grows, increasing their power base outside of the capital city. Cynidicean expansion comes to a halt once they encounter their first neighbors from Adhuza. Skirmishes with the Dominarchy are frequent, however unlike back on Mystara, the Cynidiceans have enough resources to maintain the struggle. With ever increasing aggression, the Cynidiceans clash with Adhuza to the west, Shaergarde and Vedal to the north, and Aran to the east.
Not all interactions between the Cynidiceans and their neighbors are of a violent nature. Cynidiceans are known far and wide as experts in herbal poultices and balms. The remedies they supply are both potent and effective, though sometimes too much so. Rumors persist throughout the Hollow Moon that once you taste the nectar of Cynidicea, you will crave it forevermore. Less savory and less scrupulous folk are often willing to pay premium sums for Cynidicean drugs and poisons.
When the Cynidiceans were originally moved to the Hollow Moon, the immortals took care to include representatives from each of the major factions in their society, the Brotherhood of Gorm, the Magi of Usamigaras, and the Warrior Maidens of Madarua. As Cynidicea proper expanded, so too did the power and influence of each of these factions, each of which controls some portion of the nation.
The western borderlands from Fairfields to the Apianus Mountains are dominated by the Brotherhood of Gorm, a society of chauvinistic warriors that often clashes with the forces of Adhuza. Not only are they renowned for their prowess as warriors, but also for the giant bees15 that they tend, some varieties of which have been domesticated as mounts16.
In eastern Cynidicea, the Warrior Maidens of Madarua are just as accomplished, and fanatical, as the Brotherhood in the west. Clashing with the hin of Shaergarde just as often as they do with the armies of Aran, the Maidens are a force to be reckoned with. Further from the borderlands the Magi of Usamigaras hold sway. They tend to be more introverted than the other factions of Cynidicea, focusing on the mystic arts and the immortal will of their patron. Many can be found wandering through the Poisson Forest17 searching for arcane herbs and preaching the wisdom of Usamigaras.
Not all the people of Cynidicea subscribe to one of the three main factions. Many remain unaffiliated with the zealotry that the factions espouse, content to pursue the activities of daily life, but there are darknesses that lurk from within. Drug abuse is rampant, as well as lycanthropy18, especially in the population of unaligned people. Meanwhile, the Cult of Zargon works tirelessly to circumvent the Hollow Moon’s strictures on summoning magic, researching for ways to bring their patron into their new dark world and overthrow the other three factions. To this end they have ties with several goblinoid tribes in Stygia who also remember and worship the tentacled terror.
Mount Gemma and Frisius erupt every 2 and 3 years respectively. Whenever the two erupt simultaneously, a thick, dark, poisonous cloud flows through the Poisson Forest. While dangerous, there are few large Cynidicean settlements nearby.
The peaks of Mount Pontanus erupt less frequently, every 13 years, however they cause more disruption for the Cynidiceans who often have to move or rebuild in the aftermath of the lava flows. Mount Geber and Sacrobosco in the north cause a commotion when they erupt as well. Mount Geber throws flaming stones across the countryside every 52 years. Sacrobosco fumes constantly, spitting large clouds of ash out every 7 years and unleashing pyroclastic explosions every 238 years.
The Brotherhood of Gorm begins marshalling its forces, but turn their attention to the east toward the Warrior Maidens of Madarua. As tensions rise between the two factions darker forces are at work outside of the nation. A small group of korpru has dominated the Brotherhood’s leadership and turned them against their own. With all of Cynidicea distracted by the threat of civil war, Adhuza sits poised for invasion. The PCs must ferret out the kopru deception before it is too late.
Traders from the village of Garua haven’t been seen in over a cycle. When the PCs go to investigate their disappearance, they find a community that has apparently succumbed to a zombie plague. In fact the villagers are not undead, but are instead being controlled by a crazed Magi of Usamigaras and her specially brewed hypnotic potions. Once the Magi is dealt with, the PCs will have to visit the Poisson Forest, and retrieve an assortment of rare herbs in order to cure the villagers.
Cynidicea’s devoted have been receiving dreams from Gorm, Madarua, and Usamigaras, all pointing them to explore the ruins beneath the most ancient city in Cynidicea. What they find is a portal to another world19 … perhaps the very world that their ancestors were taken from.
On Mystara’s Outer World
Gruugrakh gnolls first arrived in the Pains of Fire circa BC 1000, after fleeing their Nithian masters. There they made an unlikely home, not upon the inhospitable surface of the Plains, but deep beneath it, in a dark and dangerous territory they called Graakh. Centuries later, newcomers discovered their home. Sheyallia elves migrating across the Serpent Peninsula also decided to take shelter in the deep caves of Graakh and claim it as their own. For nearly a century gnolls and elves fought, battling at the same time the fungoid terrors that infested dark caverns around them. The struggle proved too much for both people.
In order to survive the perils of their chosen home, both elves and gnolls needed to set aside their differences and work together to survive. At first the groups exchanged hostages in order to keep the peace, but with that exchange blossomed greater understanding between the two cultures. Gradually gnollish and elven cultures came together, solidifying into a unified people, the Graakhalians.
For nearly a millennium the Graakhalias existed in peace in their deep abode, but their tranquility was interrupted by yet another group of newcomers, elves fleeing the fall of the Sylvan Realm. Welcomed at first, these new elves were distrustful of the gnolls and plotted to eliminate them. Their insurgent nature was quickly discovered and the rebels were exiled, but the damage had already been done. Tensions between the gnolls and elves continued rising.
What prompted the Immortals to move the Graakhalians to the Hollow Moon is unknown, but several factors likely played a role. The Graakhalian elves were near to achieving the long-term goal of bringing more water into the subterranean caverns. Immigrants from southern Brun began to explore the region while at the same time forces of the Master bolstered themselves preparing for a war still decades away. Any one of these factors could threaten to destabilize the delicate balance of Graakhalian culture enough to destroy it.
In the Hollow Moon
The Janssen Badlands, where the Graakhalians were placed, combines aspects of both the Plain of Fire and the caverns of Graakh beneath it. While the plains themselves are barren and desolate, territory near the two lakes, Metius and Fabricius, flourishes with a plethora of dangerous fungal life. Just as it did deep in Graakh, the fungal life cycle around the lakes fluctuates according to both the lunar season and day.
For Graakhalian gnolls it has only been one or two generations since their arrival in the Hollow Moon, though for the elves memory of their old home is still fresh. Elven numbers since their arrival 80 years ago haven’t grown, although the gnollish population has grown significantly. Few nations are near enough to the fledgling Graakhalians to have persistent contact with them, although bands of curious gnolls have traveled as far as Aran, Cynidicea, and even duskward to Vedal.
While Graakhalian culture in the Hollow Moon is essentially the same as it is on Mystara, the very nature of their existence inside Matera has created some differences. The expansive nature of the Janssen Badlands has allowed the Graakhalians to spread out more than they ever did in their underground homeland of Graakh. Clans in the Hollow Moon consist of a core of elven elders surrounded by a cadre of gnollish warriors and artisans. Small elven numbers combined with a low fertility rate, make elves a rare commodity in Graakhalia. They are often viewed as benevolent elders by the gnolls and vehemently protected for their knowledge, wisdom, and arcane prowess.
In turn the elves view gnolls as the rambunctious and eager youth that form the backbone of Graakhalian society. Being far more numerous and fecund, Graakhalian gnolls have prospered in the short time since their arrival in the Hollow Moon. Because of the disparate differences in elven and gnollish population numbers, outsiders observing the Graakhalians may never even realize that the society is integrated.
Several distinct clans have formed in the decades since their arrival, most of which claim territory around the two lakes in the Janssen Badlands. Once per lunar year, these clans all gather in the middle of the badlands to trade, socialize, and discuss common threats. One of them, led by an elven sage and gnollish warrior, has even lifted the ban regarding intermarriage between the species and currently counts over a dozen half-elves among their clan. Only time will tell how this new experiment will play out.
Mount Fabricius is the only active volcano in Graakhalian lands. It erupts once every lunar year20 in conjunction with the sporing season (between the months of Itinissatu and Itisattu) which helps disperse the fungal life across the region. This is a dangerous time for those in the area, due mostly to the infectious nature of the spores, more so than the activity of the volcano itself.
Fungal monsters have been venturing forth from the lakes at odd seasons throughout the lunar year. Several clans have been decimated by the creatures and the remaining clan elders have gathered in order to discern the true level of this new threat. In fact, several rogue fungal druids from the Vesperlands have recently discovered the nearby territory and have vowed to master its secrets. Their experiments with the local fungal life forms21 has gone terribly wrong.
Many elven clan members have gone missing overnight, spirited away by some dark force. Unless the PCs can track them down and return them to their homes, the clan is likely doomed to fall apart and disperse. In truth only half the elves have actually been kidnapped. The other half are part of a radical faction that wants to eliminate all gnolls from Graakhalian society.
A small hunting party composed of young gnolls has disappeared in the Janssen Badlands. The PCs are sent out to determine their fate, and bring them back to the clan if they are still alive. The hunting party has been detained and is being studied by a small group of pteryx archeologists. The PCs will have to save the gnolls before they are dissected by the curious pteryx. Harming the pteryx in the process could be disastrous, for their species is known for periodically decimating entire nations.
On Mystara’s Outer World
Before the rise and fall of Blackmoor these small and primitive rakasta roamed through the forests of Mystara. One of the more primitive forms of rakasta, the margasta22 are small and lithe, and spend much of their time hunting tree bound fowl and small mammals, and fishing in nearby streams and lakes.
Climate changes brought on by the axial tilt after the Great Rain of Fire, did nearly as much to bring about margasta extinction on the Outer World, as did increasing competition from neighboring species, especially the larger modern rakasta breeds. The last remaining clans were moved through Immortal power from northern Davania and Brun, along the Savage Coast, to the Trifold Isthmus between the Tranquillitatis, Fecunditatis, and Nectaris maria.
In the Hollow Moon
Thriving in their new dark environment, the margasta quickly spread from the Trifold-Isthmus across much of the Midlands and Dusklands. In those early centuries very few other creatures roamed the dark interior of the moon, save for the troglodytes and occasionally their pteryx overlords. Soon however, the margasta encountered other folk and were slowly pushed back into the darkest forests of the Hollow Moon.
As the folk around them grew more powerful, the margasta tribes became more insular. Mistrustful of others, they retreated back the isthmus between the three seas where their ancestors had first arrived. Though a few of their clans were lost in the larger world, integrated into other societies or else exterminated completely, the margasta of the Isthmus remained true to their way of life and their ancestors.
Margasta clans are a warrior society, led by the greatest warrior among them23. The young and elderly typically remain sheltered while margasta warriors roam their territories in search of game, defending their borders from neighboring clans as well as outsiders. A few in margasta society forsake the path of the warrior, choosing instead to follow the immortals as ‘medicine’ cats. Though respected by their peers, and often sought after for their wisdom, these rakasta may not start families, nor may they take positions of power in their clan.
Kits are given names by their parents shortly after they are born. Upon attaining adulthood, and performing the rites of passage to become true warriors, each young margasta takes on a new name, one that personifies their skills and temperament. Those margasta who attain the rank of clan leaders append the honorific “skull” to their names, as tribute to all of their ancestors who have walked before them and are now a part of Skullclan, the clan of the afterlife.
Mummification24 of the dead is one of the most sacred duties for the margasta, who believe that only those warriors who have lived according to the Warrior’s Code and are laid to rest with the proper ceremonies, will be able to join Skullclan. While the ancestors of Skullcaln lay in rest, entombed deep in Ancestor’s Cavern, the margasta of Boneclan see to their needs in the lands of the living. Generally clans are very territorial, however Boneclan allows passage through their lands for pilgrims, burial parties, and those wishing to speak with their forefathers.
Mount Gutenberg erupts annually, releasing slow moving lava flows that march southward toward Mare Nectaris, building up a long ridge of volcanic rock25. Seldom are the eruptions powerful or fast enough to endanger those living nearby. Smaller volcanoes dot the landscape all the way from Mount Gutenberg to Mare Nectaris, including Mount Capella and Mount Isidorus.
Looming above the ancient margasta burial grounds is Mount Torricelli, a violent and angry mountain that grumbles constantly. Every 23 years the volcano erupts. Despite the danger all of the margasta tribes gather under its angry light to commune with their ancestors.
Indigents from Savageclan, a rabid and lawless clan who have forsaken the Warrior’s Code, have fallen under the sway of a new leader, Blightclaw. A small and scrawny specimen even by margasta standards, Blightclaw grew up fending for himself on the outskirts of the Trade Cities. Now come into power through treachery and bullying, Blightclaw intends to punish both the citizenry of the Trade Cities and the warriors of the margasta clans for their mistreatment of the northern outcasts.
Blackskull, the clan leader of Fireclan, has decided that the time is right to purge the land of his enemies. In secret he has made alliances with warriors in Darkclan, promising them positions of power once the neighboring clans are under his control. Blackskull has no intention of honoring any of his deal however, and will soon double cross all his erstwhile supporters. Once in power Blackskull’s reign will be brutal and unmerciful.
As Mount Torricelli rumbles, the entrance to Ancestor’s Cavern collapses just before Stormclan is about to lay their deceased leader Waveskull to rest. Clan society may be about to change forever, as Crackedskull the Usurper challenges the other members of Skullclan within the crystal halls of the ancestors deep below the surface. If Crackedskull is successful, he will abandon the Warrior’s Code, and lead an army of mummified ancestors to rule over the margasta clans above.
On Mystara’s Outer World
Fleeing the destruction of the Great Rain of Fire, a small group of Blackmoorians found a home on a remote island off the southern coast of Brun, and using their extensive powers of Fleshcrafting, managed to steel themselves against the aftermath of the Wasting. For hundreds of years these technomages thrived on their island home, slowly but steadily changing their own flesh so that eventually they were no longer recognized as human. Their neighbors began to call them the Makers, for they seemed to possess the power of the immortals themselves, that which enabled them to make, and unmake, life.
Fairly insulated from the rest of the world, the Makers created servants for themselves, creatures which could till their fields, build their cities, and even wage their wars. In BC 1300, one of these creations, the kara-kara, turned on their masters, decimating the island of Teki-nuri-ria where they lived, and driving the surviving Makers into long forgotten Lhomarrian ruins. It was there that the Makers mastered the arts of Shadowcraft, transforming themselves into living shadows26. Even this could not save them, when an alliance of aranea and other magically inclined creatures determined to take the Lhomarrian ruins for their own. For nearly one hundred years the shadows did battle with the aranea and their minions, finally succumbing to their depredations in BC 800.
In the Hollow Moon
Not all was lost for the shadowy remnants of the Makers, for some unknown immortal removed the last remnants of their population from the dark caves of the Shadowdeep and placed them on a quiet island amidst the placid waters of Mare Tranquillitatis. Through magic, they rebuilt their city in the open darkness and named it Maskelyne. Over the centuries the city-citadel of Maskelyne has grown sporadically. The shadows have neither the desire nor the need to expand their territory, and are content instead to turn their pursuits to arcane research.
For many cycles the shadows of Maskelyne believed themselves to be the only inhabitants of their new, dimly-lit world, however intrepid explorers do occasionally brave the waters of Tranquillitatis to explore the lonely island. When the first silken ships from Aran were spotted, the shadows flew into a frenzy and with a fervor built up defenses around the island. After decades of aggression between the two peoples, the Silken windships of the spiderfolk actively avoid the island, and indeed few sail over Mare Tranquillitatis for any reason.
On Mystara, the Makers were fleshcrafters, taking other living beings and remolding them for special purposes. As shadows in the Hollow Moon, their interests remain similar, although they no longer work at crafting flesh but instead manipulate shadowy creatures.
Acclaim and prestige is earned based on the number of unique shadowy creatures the mages of Maskelyne create.
Inside the Shadow Citadel the shades of Maskelyne operate under a strict hierarchy, overseen by the Shadow Lords, masters of arcane shadowmancy27. Most of the Lords were once flesh and bone Makers, with memories of their time on Mystara. Beneath the Lords are Adepts, Apprentices, Servants, and finally Slaves, which are mostly shadowy creatures of little more than animal intelligence28.
The Shadows of Maskelyne don’t reproduce like other creatures in the Hollow Moon, but when a new shadow is created they have one of two choices; join the ranks of Shadow Servants and serve out a term of indentured servitude to one of the Shadow Apprentices, or flee Maskelyne. Those shades who show some capability in the arcane arts may be able to ascend the ranks, becoming Shadow Apprentices when their term of servitude is up.
The caldera surrounding the Shadow Citadel bubbles and boils constantly, but only truly erupts once every 256 years. When it does, the plume of fire can be seen from every shore of Mare Tranquillitatis.
Portals are opening up and whisking the shadow folk away from the Shadow Citadel. A crazed mordrigswerg dwarf is summoning an army of shadows for some nefarious purpose, and now even one of the Masters has gone missing. Not only must the dwarf be stopped, but the Shadow Master found and returned to the Citadel.
A shadow monster29 has escaped from the island and is causing havoc on the Margasta Tri-isthmus. When the Shadow Masters cannot regain control of the creatures, they send a small force from the CItadel to either capture it and bring it back, or destroy it. Unfortunately the creature is not operating under it’s own influence, but is being controlled by three rogue ancients from Skullcaln. The mummies have discovered a way to control the shadow beast and are using it wipe out the descendents of their ancient enemies.
A small cabal of shades within the Shadow Citadel is building an army to attack Maskelyne’s neighbors. Should such a rash of shadow monsters emerge from the island, all of the Hollow Moon might join forces to destroy the shadows.
On Mystara’s Outer World
Ever since the disappearance of the Gentle Folk from Faerdinel, the hin (halflings) living in southern Brun struggled even to survive. In BC 938 they could no longer hold back the tide of darkness assailing them and orcs poured forth from the mountains to burn the Elderhall. When a dwarven army under the leadership of Loktal Ironshield opposed the orcs, the hin of Hindon believed that they had been saved, but those brief thoughts were shattered when Loktal executed the remaining Elders and crowned himself king of the Glittering Land.
For twenty years the hin lived as slaves to dwarven rule, until orc, human and gnoll invasions finally weakened the dwarves. The hin revolted in a Second Rising, overthrowing the tyrannical dwarves and founding the realm of Shaerdon, ruled over by a Council of hin clan lords and heroes. Shaerdon’s prosperity was not to last however, as within a hundred years of its founding the hin were plagued by internal rivalries and corruption in the Clanstrife, allowing outside forces to once again destroy their nation. Before Shaerdon was lost for good, the Hin Heroes moved their most loyal supporters to the Hollow Moon.
In the Hollow Moon
Hin heroes quickly set to mapping their new lands and marking out their territories, fast to lay claim to the most productive western shores of Mare Tranquillitatis. Few hin make their homes in the northern highlands between the Darrest Plateau and Delambre Ridge, though the heroes patrol the region constantly, using it as one of their major proving grounds.
Monsters constantly creep into Shaergarde from the nearby Valley of Horrors in Vedal, and the hin stationed at both Fort Andel and Icas Keep have honed their skills battling them. Further north, in the fortress of Dar’s Rest they skirmish with their elvish neighbors. Dwarves, either from Mordrigswerg or Kogalor, are rarely seen in these lands. Though the hin are not overtly violent toward them, dwarves are mistrusted at best.
Not all interactions with the hin of Shaergarde are violent in nature, for most who visit these lands find a good natured people, willing to trade textiles, agricultural merchandise, and even stories. Hin sailors often brave the waters of Mare Tranquillitatis to do business with Cacklogallinia, the Trade Cities, and even occasionally with Vesper elves and the folk of Albarendi.
Shaergarde hin are extremely individualistic with attitudes often bordering on rebellious. Most are content living normal lives as farmers, merchants, and tradesmen, but the most revered calling in Shaergarde is that of the hero and adventurer. Many hin, at some time of their life or another, venture dawnward into the wilds of the Midland forests to test their mettle. Those that take to the life, patrol the forests on giant flightless cassowaries30, intent on keeping their kin to the duskward safe.
Clan Lords lead the hin communities, each tracing their lineages back to ancient heroes on a distant world that freed their people from hated dwarven overlords and first established the nation of Shaerdon. Each Clan Lord sits on the Hero’s Council, a ruling body that meets regularly to insure that law and order preside over the land and that no foreign powers will ever again hold sway over the hin.
An undercurrent of intrigue and politicking permeates clan relationships. Age old disputes are rarely forgotten, often blooming into outright feuds lasting decades or centuries. Despite this most hin pull together during times of strife, especially when confronted by outside forces.
The fires of Dionysus are enough to light the skies a dull red every 4 years, but they do very little real damage. When Mount Delambre erupts every 17 years, the sludge that spews forth poisons the Delambre river for several seasons. Crops die and many hin living along the river must leave their homes or risk becoming deathly ill.
Theo’s Hollow rumbles and shakes, sending shockwaves felt throughout southern Shaergarde and as far duskward as the Margasta Tri-isthmus. Every 33 years the small cone that has built up in the center of the caldera shatters explosively, scattering shards of heated rock across the countryside. Further inland lava flows from the slopes of Mount Kant once every 89 years though it rarely causes major disruptions for those living in the lowlands beneath it. Mount Alfraganus and Mount Dolland are more violent, though there are fewer permanent settlements near them.
Riderless cassowaries returning to Icas Keep signal that something has gone terribly wrong during the latest patrol mission. PCs are sent out to discover the fate of the hin involved and must determine if the patrol was ambushed by monsters from the Valley of Horrors, or if they were waylaid by elven forces from Hyccal. The unfortunate truth is that clan rivalry is involved. One of the hin on patrol, determined to settle old clan debts, attacked one of his fellows. Distracted by this betrayal, the patrol was caught off guard by a monster attack and scattered.
Hin adventurers are called to the base of Mount Delambre, which has been spewing forth gobs of magma lit by a “black fire”. The PCs must brave the perils of the volcano’s lava filled chambers to find an ancient artifact, before it is recovered by a band of deep glaurants from Stygia. Rescuing the artifact is not the only peril the PCs must face, for long ago the Hin Heroes hid the artifact from their followers in order to avert the jealousies and rivalries that brought about their downfall on Mystara.
A large band of Kogalor dwarves from Adhuza has been spotted in the southwestern lands, and it looks like they mean to stay, having established a small mining community near Abulfeda. PCs are tasked with infiltrating the community, finding out what the dwarves want, and discovering a means to drive them away.
Sharon Dornhoff’s Hollow Moon series
GAZ8 The Five Shires
Champions of Mystara
2The pteryx were intelligent pterosaur contemporaries of the carnifex in the ancient past of Mystara, and now serve as one of the primary antagonists in the Hollow Moon. For more information of the pteryx see Threshold Issue #2 and Hollow Moon Cultures: Pteryx of the Apennines http://www.pandius.com/pteryx.html by Sharon Dornhoff at The Vaults of Pandius.
3For more information on the Spell of Remembrance (and the Saurolunarian conflict), see Background on Hollow Moon Magic http://pandius.com/moonfire.html by Sharon Dornhoff at The Vaults of Pandius, and Once Upon a Blue Moon in Threshold Issue #2.
7For more information on the Margasta Tri-isthmus and surrounding areas see Hollow Moon Planetology: Blue Moon - Climate & Weather http://pandius.com/climweat.html by Sharon Dornhoff at The Vaults of Pandius.
8For more information about Mare Fecunditatis (sometimes also spelled Foecunditatis) and the other seas of Matera, see Hollow Moon Planetology: Blue Moon - Seas & Tides by Sharon Dornhoff http://pandius.com/seastide.html at The Vaults of Pandius.
9Although there are countless freshwater lakes, none of them reach the crystal firmament. See Hollow Moon Planetology: Blue Moon - Lunar Geography by Sharon Dornhoff http://pandius.com/lunageog.html at The Vaults of Pandius.
10Mare Frigoris and Sinus Roris are composed of fresh water, however both are permanently frozen over.
11Mythic lycanthropy was a virulent early strain of lycanthropy created by the Taymorans. For more on Mythic lycanthropy see A Treatise on Lycanthropy http://pandius.com/lyctreat.html by John Calvin at The Vaults of Pandius and the expanded article A Treatise on the History of Lycanthropy in the Known World in Threshold Issue #13
12Also detailed in the Treatise on Lycanthropy articles, Herathian Lycanthropy allowed araneans to take on a humanoid form. Before this araneans on Mystara only had a single shape (that of a spider).
13Aranean tribes are derived from several major spider taxa and include Argiop, Baghe, Cteniz, Hepta, Liphis, Saltic, Taran, Tetrag, and the lost tribe of Nephil.
15Cynidiceans brought giant honey bees with them when they were transported to the Hollow Moon, but other solitary varieties (less valuable as honey makers) existed prior to their coming. See Hollow Moon Planetology: Blue Moon -- Animal Life by Sharon Dornhoff http://www.pandius.com/anmllife.html on The Vaults of Pandius.
16Bees used as mounts are of the Huge variety, from pre-existing breeds within the Hollow Moon. For more information on giant insects appropriate for use in the Hollow Moon see MMMC (lowlife) http://pandius.com/Monster_Manual_3.pdf article by Robin on The Vaults of Pandius.
17The name for the Poisson Forest was taken directly from the Lunar Atlas, where there is a region of the moon named after Siméon Denis Poisson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sim%C3%A9on_Denis_Poisson. Strangely enough there are several fungi and trees in this region that produce a strange scent faintly reminiscent of fish.
18Some of the first were-foxes in the Hollow Moon were introduced through Cynidicea by the Polymath Leo Variantia on his quest for immortality. See Lunar Lycanthropy and PCs* http://www.pandius.com/lycanthr.html by Sharon Dornhoff on The Vaults of Pandius
19This could be the very portal used by the were-fox Leo Variantia (a Modern Lycanthrope according to the lore introduced by the Treatise on Lycanthropy) when he entered the Hollow Moon. The requirements to find and activate the portal are left up to individual DMs to determine.
20The Materan calendar is detailed in Threshold Issue #2 http://www.pandius.com/Threshold_2.pdf. It consists of 18 months that are governed by the tidal patterns created by Patera’s (Mystara’s second moon) orbit and distance from Matera.
22The margasta were created by Sharon Dornhoff as a primitive form of rakasta based on the real world margay of Central and South America https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margay. More information about the margasta can be gleaned from the Hollow Moon articles http://pandius.com/hllwmoon.html at The Vaults of Pandius. Additional rakasta breeds may be found in Rakasta of Mystara by Bruce Heard in Dragon Magazine #247.
23There was very little information to be found on the margasta, so I decided to draw inspiration for their culture from another source - some of my daughter’s reading material. For more information see the Warriors novels published by HarperCollins (and written by various authors) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warriors_(novel_series)
26In Robin’s MMMC undead http://pandius.com/Monster_Manual_4.pdf pages 1113-1115 I would classify the Maskelyne Shadows as Greater Shadows. There are also probably lesser shadows living on the island serving them (along with other shadow creatures/animals/monsters).I'd also probably say that Maskelyne Shadows definitely remember their past lives.
28Animal and monster ver sions of shadows exist in the Hollow Moon as well as the standard version. See Monsters' Abilities and the SoR by Sharon Dornhoff http://www.pandius.com/monsters.html at The Vaults of Pandius.
29The Shadow Creature Template in Lords of Madness may be applied to normal animals and monsters in order to create a shadow version of the creatures.