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Compiled Q&A on the HackWurld of Mystaros

Dear fellow Mystara enthusiasts, for reference purposes, I wanted to compile the history of the HackWurld of Mystaros. This would've been the first officially-licensed version of Mystara since the AD&D2E version...but alas, like DA5: City of Blackmoor or BX1: The Islandia Campaign it was not to be (for now). If anyone has additional historical details on this endeavour, feel free to contribute.

First, an overview of the planet of Aldrazar where the HackWurld would've been located; posted the creator of Aldrazar, Jolly Blackburn of Kenzer & Company (from the Kenzer forums, March 2003):

A Wurld of Worlds... Defining Garweeze Wurld I wanted to post this explanation because there seems to be some confusion among some players/GMs over the announcement that several new Hackmaster campaign settings are in development.

Here's the low down....

If you check page 337 of the GMG you'll notice the vital stats for the planet Aldrazar. Without giving away too much information (There by player-types lurking here I'm sure), you'll notice Aldrazar is a HUGE planet. If you make a visual comparison of the land mass showing in Figure F2: Aldrazar with Figure F1: Garweeze Wurld Size comparison (the one with the United States overlay) it is quickly apparent that there is a LOT of room for other landmasses on the planet. Just what lies on the other hemisphere and around Garweeze Wurld proper??

If it wasn't clear, ALL of the other campaign wurlds (Garweeze Wurld Proper, Mystarica, GreyHack, etc) being developed are set on Aldrazar. Each setting will be isolated from the others by such things as open ocean, formidable forces, impassable mountains, etc.

To be sure players will be able to migrate from one setting to the others but such a journey would involve a monumental trek (just think Marco Polo visiting China or Columbus sailing to America and then upping the difficulty factor). Of course, Magic (including certain spells designed to aid in this type of travel that already exist in the PHB) might aid in such endeavours but basically each setting is sufficiently isolated from the others that they don't impact each other politically.

We're aware there a few things to over come. (such as the differences in the number of moons in the original settings and Garweeze Wurld, different pantheons, etc. But since we're re-weaving the fabric so to speak, it shouldn't be too much of a problem. (And could make for some interesting backstory).

Although it's too early to tell, I suspect there will be limited trade, possibly even some diplomatic efforts between the various settings. But at the same time, it's possible some of the settings aren't even aware the other settings exist. (Again, like the Americas as the yet undiscovered "New World".).

I hope this clears up some of the confusion. We're excited about this approach and the fact that Aldrazaar is big enough to hold Garweeze Wurld proper as well as all the classic D&D/AD&D worlds. (including a GM's homebrewed wurld if he choses to drop it into one of the pockets on the globe we'll be reserving for such use.

Again, this is just a rough explanation. Aspects of it may change as we get deeper into development.

Again, we're really excited about this approach. The Wurlds of Aldrazar could easily become the most detailed and politically rich gaming environments ever developed. Can I get a Hoody Hoo on that?

Next, here's where HackWurld designer James Mishler posted the official press release from Kenzer & Co, followed by questions and answers (from the MML February and March 2003; James' posts not specifically about the Hackmaster version of Mystara were not included):

MUNDELEIN, IL Kenzer & Company is pleased to announce the impending release of the first HackMaster(tm) campaign setting book, the Hacklopedia(tm) Mystarica(tm): The Guide to the HackWurld(tm) of Mystaros(tm), based on the classic Dungeons & Dragons(r) setting, the Known World of Mystara(r).

"We have always wanted to rewrite the classic fantasy game settings of our youth for our own

HackMaster setting, Garweeze Wurld(tm)," said Kenzer & Company Project Manager, Brian Jelke. "The classic Known World of Mystara was the perfect choice for our first release. Mystara has everything you could want in an adventure setting, from hordes of screaming humanoids and wuss-slapping knights, to mysterious vivisectionist wizards and butt-kicking halfling bounders. Besides, we knew we had the right author for the project when he asked us how much he had to pay us to do it!"

"Are you kidding? Pass up an opportunity to redesign Mystara for HackMaster?" said Hacklopedia Mystarica designer, James 'Mystaros' Mishler. "I would have sold my dice collection for the opportunity! Well, half of it, maybe. The revamp of the classic Mystara setting for the HackMaster milieu was a given since day one of HackMaster. The Known World Gazetteers and the later Mystara releases helped define the look and feel of fantasy worlds for thousands of players. The new HackWurld of Mystaros, in which we take the original Mystara material and crank up the HackFactor, will do the same for a new generation of gamers."

The "Hacklopedia Mystarica: The Guide to the HackWurld of Mystaros" is being written by crazed Mystara fan James Mishler and goes on sale in late summer of 2003. The book is expected to be a 256-page soft cover sourcebook that will include a 2'x3' full-colour wall map of the HackWurld of Mystaros. Estimated retail price is $34.99.

About Kenzer & Company

For more information on Kenzer & Company, check out HackMaster, Garweeze Wurld, Hacklopedia Mystarica, and HackWurld of Mystaros are trademarks of Kenzer & Company. Dungeons & Dragons, D&D, and Mystara are registered trademarks owned by Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. and used by Kenzer & Company under license.


To answer some questions I'm sure to get before they are asked...

1) Taymorans and Carnifex -- Yes. More than this, man was not meant to know. Mwahahahaha!

2) Blackmoor -- Unfortunately, no, due to copyright and licensing issues. What did Mystaros come up with to take its place? Mwahahahaha!

3) Hollow World -- No, not as such, due to certain continuity issues. But there will be some materials from it incorporated into the HackWurld.

4) Heldann and Wendar -- More details on each nation, as much as will be found for each of the classic gazetteer kingdoms.

5) Ierendi -- Hee hee. Let's just say "the fix is in." Mine! Mine! Mwahahahahaha!

6) The rest of Mystara (the "HackWurld of Mystaros" region being synonymous with the "Known World of Mystara" region) -- The rest of the world will be changed, some parts little, some parts a lot. I don't know how much I can tell you all at this point, as I didn't know the PR was going out this soon, and hadn't asked how much I could tell.

7) Fan-written materials from the Vaults of Pandius -- Probably not, due to copyright issues, but I am still delving into that. Other than my own stuff that has been seen in drips and drabs, here and there, that is, as I sold my soul to get this gig, and my Mystara material goes with it... (^_^)

8) Previews -- I am hoping that we will be able to preview parts of the setting in Knights of the Dinner Table, maybe elsewhere, before release. That is still under consideration.

9) Mystaros -- Yes, you will finally get to meet the real Mystaros. All these years he has been my Mystaran counterpart, as Elminster is Ed Greenwood's Forgotten Realms ID, and Mordy and Bigby in Greyhawk to Gary Gygax.

More than that I cannot say at this time. I'll spill as much as I can here, when I know what I can say...

Gah! It's finally out in the open. Hooray! ::Cartwheels:: This is so going to ROCK!

Now you all know why I've been quieter than normal, even after being back... (^_^)

(Dustin Clingman from Zeitgeist Games, publishers of Dave Arneson's Blackmoor added):

Congrats James!

Sorry about the Blackmoor part missing ;P We have plans to do that one ourselves shortly. Kenzer has been after us for a while to get the ball rolling on that.

JM: Well, it is really for the best on both ends, frankly. This way, Mystara can be pure Mystara, and Blackmoor can be pure Blackmoor.

DC: I disagree when people say Hackmaster is crap. If you have any sense of humour or have played with any of the types of people that game reflects, you will just laugh your butt off. Just reading the rulebooks is funny, let alone the actual game. In a world of total clones, at least they have humour on their side. Plus they added tons of rules to the licensed stuff they got from WotC.

JM: Exactly! While HackMaster is not exactly how I would have done with AD&D given the chance, it is actually far closer to what I would have done than 3E D&D is. The new Spellslinger's Guide and Combatant's Guide have convinced me more and more that Kenzer is on the right path with this game. They add an incredible amount of cool stuff to HackMaster, more than any of the similar guides for 3E D&D do for 3E...

DC: Bottom line, it's fun stuff. Maybe not the way people wanted to see Mystara come back, but it's fun nevertheless. I look forward to reading it when it comes out!

JM: It will be fun, both from a pure game play perspective, and from a HackMaster "tongue firmly in cheek" perspective. It is going to completely rock!


JM: Okay, here goes with a few more broad generalisations...

First off, I want to say that basically, whatever happens with Mystara in the Hacklopedia Mystarica will be by MY decision. If you don't like something that happens in the Hacklopedia, blame me, not Kenzer. They have given me carte blanche to work on it. The crona stops here, so to speak. So if you must curse someone, curse me.

Second, remember, I am as rabid a Mystara fan as you are going to find. This is not going to suck, or, I should say, I do not PLAN to make this suck.

This is not going to be an unplayable parody. It will still be a parody, though, as that is part and parcel of what comes with the HackMaster territory. However, it will be a parody that makes it eminently even MORE Mystara than Mystara, if I may be so bold. I am taking the things that make Mystara, and give it its special essence, and making them "more so." I am also cranking up the HackFactor, too, to go along with the HackMaster feel.

This is a good thing.

The guys at Kenzerco tapped me to do this because, though they want to do the all AD&D worlds for HackMaster, they want people who are both familiar with HackMaster AND the world in question to make the adaptation. I like to think they made a good choice.

Third, remember, this is the HackWurld of Mystaros, not the Known World of Mystara. This is a world based on the original Mystara. It is not a replacement for Mystara, and does not change anything that anyone has ever done before as far as Mystara goes. This will be, for all intents and purposes, my own version of Mystara. This will be the Canon HackMaster Mystara, not the Canon Wizards of the Coast Mystara. Even if you do not play HackMaster, but you like something from it, take it and use it, by all means.

Some things I can now reveal:

1) Geographic changes -- The "HackWurld" of the title is the "Known World," plus a little to the north. I am "recentering" the HackWurld to include Wendar, Denagoth, the Heldann Territories, and Landfall and parts north.

Why? Well, the "Known World" of Mystara used to include the Thanegioth Archipelago, which was supposed to be as unknown as anyplace in the Known World. So, rather than include the islands in the big map we are doing, I wanted to fit in more of the lands to the north. Thus, the "HackWurld of Mystaros" includes the lands from a line south of (but inclusive of) Wendar, Denagoth, Heldann, and Landfall (including some of the Wyrmsteeth, crawling with dragons for adventurers to slay). The end of the HackWulrd in the west will be Akesoli, in the east the Western Sea of Dawn, and in the south the Sea of dread just south of Ierendi, Minrothad, and the Isle of Hattias. That way, the incredibly cool 2' x 3' map (at 50 miles/inch) will include a lot more than the open seas of the sea of dread and some islands that the players shouldn't know much of anyway...

There will be a few minor fixes to the geography of the HackWurld, nothing that takes away anything, but a few things that make the world make more sense. One thing I will mention is the Trollheim Rise. This is the region flanking the border between Ethengar and Vestland. In the traditional Known World, it is simply a region of forested hills. In the HackWurld, it is a region of huge ridges, rising up to the Ethengar Plateau. The ridges swarm with trolls and other such beasties, living in the ancient tunnels once carved and inhabited by gnomes. This change fixes the nature of the flow of the Krandai River while also adding a lot of cool adventuring opportunities, without significantly altering anything. This is the kind of limited geographical change that happens in the HackWurld. Stuff that makes the world cooler, while fixing inconsistencies and so forth. Geographic regions will be described in detail.

From the HackWurld on out, however, there are more changes. Some of them quite drastic. Remember, this Mystara is not the original Mystara, it is the world of Mystara on Aldrazaar, the HackMaster world. The largest changes occur with Davania and Skothar. Most of Davania is, well, gone, sunk beneath the waves. The portion of Davania north of the Aryptian Basin remains. The same must be said for Skothar. The Esterhold Peninsula remains, as does the portion once known as "Jen." Minaea also remains. The rest is sunk beneath the waves. These lands were lost during the "Great Rain of Fire" event, according to Mystaran myth and legend. The reason they do not exist on Aldrazaar, of course, is to make room for the rest of the world, which is already there.

As for Brun, there are changes as well. Most of the lands west of the Yalu/Borean river have fallen into the water, this time, between 2000 and 1700 BC. There remain the great Isle of Hyborea, the Sylvan Isles, and the Isles of the Immortals. There is a whole story behind this, which I cannot reveal here (I have to save some surprises for the actual book.) You will notice a pattern here. The areas that were "dropped off" are those that never got major development in Canon Mystara. Now, of course, in your own campaigns, if you want the rest of Mystara to still be there, you can do that.

Alphatia, Bellissaria, the Isle of Dawn, Ochalea, Nuar, the Serpent Peninsula, the Savage Coast, Norwold, the Midlands... all remain.

2) Hollow World -- The Hollow World does not exist, as such, in the HackWurld. There is the HackWurld equivalent, but I want to save the details of that for the book, to be a surprise. It's cool, believe me.

3) History -- Okay, this one is a doozy. Some of you will brand me a heretic forever for doing it. The biggest news is that the HackWurld of Mystaros will be set in 1000 AC. The Wrath of the Immortals has not yet (will not?) happen. The reasons for this are many and varied. From a HackMaster standpoint, the most important reason is that a Mystara without Alphatia is no Mystara at all. Alphatia rocks, pure and simple, and without it Mystara is much, much poorer. Additionally, the changes that occurred during the "Wrath of the Immortals" were many... too many, too much, in too short a time. The Known World should have been cast back into the stone age just because of the big meteor, let alone any of the other things. As we've discussed here just recently, the sinking of Alphatia and the invasion of the Desert Nomads were more than enough combined to ruin civilisation.

Altogether, the reasons behind this, and the implications of it, will be detailed in the book.

In addition, there will be a massive, comprehensive, cross-indexed History, complete with adventure kernels and notes. Carnifex, Serpentines, and Taymorans included. It has always been my firm belief that the best adventures are those that tie into what has gone before, and this will allow game masters to tie characters intimately to the world around them.

4) Culture -- One of the definitive things that made Mystara, well, Mystara, was the fact that each of these nations had a distinctive culture. Those remain; in some cases, they are taken more to an extreme, in a HackMaster way. Thyatis is even more Byzantine, with daggers flying freely. The division between the Kin and Preceptor factions in Ylaruam is even more pronounced. The Norse of the Northern Reaches are even more Viking and barbaric. You get the idea. "More Mystaran than Mystara" is my goal with this. Plus, those areas that got short-shrift, culturally speaking, like the Isle of Dawn, Bellissaria, Davania, Ochalea, and so forth, get new, original, full and more dynamic cultures.

5) The issue of Ierendi specifically -- Let's face it, people. Sure, Ierendi was cool, from a certain point of view. But it just didn't FIT. It made no sense. It did not fit into the cultural and historical panorama of Mystara.

Yes, it is changing for HackMaster. The basics: take Elizabethan England and add to it the Merry Pirates from the Hollow World. It will fit the broad band cultural region between Minrothad and Darokin. As for those that want to have "Disneyland-style" adventures, Gaity Island remains a vacation wonderland. It makes some sense there, after all, with Alphatia being a realm of massive magics and indolent nobles given to pleasure and amusement.

Above all, and over all, remember... this will be the HackMaster Mystara.

This will be Canon for HackMaster, not the original Mystara. If you like the work I've done with Mystara in the past, you will not be disappointed.

I think that's enough for now. I see there is plenty of other commentary already... I'll see if I can answer some individual inquiries.

Q: What about Skothar? and Davania?

A: The constraints of the new setting meant that these sections of the world had to go (for the most part).

I guess what this means is that if folks want to use Skothar and Davania as they were in the original Mystara, they will have to find references elsewhere. Hmmm... where would they find that, I wonder. (^_^)

Q: Its not nice to kick someone when they are down... Mystara is finally to be released again. But as a sillified clone of its former self? My players have problems taking Mystara seriously as it stands. Now, what am I going to tell them?

A: Tell them that the Mystara of the Hacklopedia Mystarica is the Mystara of HackMaster... just that. It will be a serious setting. Let me put this on a scale based on the Gazetteers...

GAZ 1 Karameikos = Most Serious Indeed

GAZ 7 Northern Reaches = Mostly Serious, with some Silly Fun Bits GAZ 3 Glantri = Rather Serious, with Lots of In-Jokes and Silly Fun Bits GAZ 10 Orcs of Thar = Not Terribly Serious, All in Good Fun GAZ 4 Ierendi = Takes Itself Too Seriously For All That it is Horribly Silly...

On this scale, the Hacklopedia Mystarica will be equal in silliness to GAZ 3, Glantri. I will be making the more serious regions a bit sillier, and taking the really silly regions, like Ierendi and the Broken Lands, and making them rather more serious. This will be the first HackMaster setting.

It must be, and will be, eminently playable as a game setting, as such equal to the Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk. It will have a "silly flavour" to it, along the lines of HackMaster... taking the gaming culture inherent in the setting to an extreme. It will NOT be "fluff"...

Q: Is this product going to be of any use/interest to people who want to run a serious campaign in Mystara?

A: Definitely. As I state above, this product will be eminently playable as a SERIOUS game setting. Like the Orcs of Thar and Glantri, you will be able to take the setting and use as much of the "silliness" as you like. Take the "silliness" out, and you will have a hardcore medieval/renaissance style fantasy setting, the likes of which will rival the Forgotten Realms in detail. It will definitively be HackMaster, though. Anyone that wants to use if for another system will need to do some work...

Q: Will the maps be nice or just comic-bookish?

A: The maps will rock! They won't be as beautiful as, say, the new Forgotten Realms map (IMNSHO, the best map ever made for a fantasy game,) but they will be very, very good. I am working very closely with Kenzer & Company to make sure everything has the feel of Mystara. We are, however, not going to be using the hex grids... I know, I know, more heresy. But, unlike the map from Joshuan's Almanac, this will rock.

Q: Will there be new and useful setting information that can be used for serious purposes?

A: Yes, it will be all eminently playable as a serious setting. In fact, it will fill in and flesh out blanks that were left in the earlier Mystara Canon, especially on Wendar, the Heldann Territories, Norwold, Davania, the Isle of Dawn, Alphatia, Bellissaria, and the Midlands. This will be, of course, HackMaster Mystara Canon, not WotC Mystara Canon.

Q: Will there be new monsters that aren't just stupid?

A: Due to page constraints, there will be a limited number of monsters included in the book. These will include mostly Mystaran monsters that did not make it into the Hacklopedia of Beasts. The exact list is not yet defined, as I am not sure how much space I will have. The descriptions of nations, geography, politics, and so forth comes first.

I love Knights of the Dinner Table, but not enough to buy an entire RPG-joke. And Mystara...oh no...

This will not be one big in-joke. This will be a playable, serious game setting. It will be a HackMaster setting, make no mistake. But it will not be just so much fluff to read...

I hope you understand the worries of this list. Anything you can say to comfort us will be most welcome...

Believe me when I say that no one wants to see Mystara work as a playable setting than I. HackMaster, as a game, is eminently playable. Sure, there are some silly bits. Of course, there are some over-the-top bits. But at its core, it is still AD&D. Everyone plays with the other bits as they like (well, unless you are in the HMPA, then you have to use it all.) Similarly, the Hacklopedia Mystarica will have as its core a solid, playable setting.

Then, atop that, there will be all the silly bits that poke fun at the world's idiosyncrasies. However, like KoDT, these parts will be "laughing with," rather than "laughing at" their source.

It's going to be a helluvalotta fun... I guarantee it.

Well, I'm happy that at least something of Mystara will be published again after so many years.. I think I'll buy the book anyway, even if It'll be only a parody of my beloved world... Sure I'll be happier if Mystara was to be republished as a serious setting, but.. something is better than nothing... and anyway this list, the almanac, Shawn's site and the many others fansites are keeping "serious" Mystara alive and well.

Do not worry! It will be a serious setting. The parody will be there, but it will not make the world unplayable. The parody of this book simply makes Mystara more Mystaran, if you get my drift. You will want to drop your other settings and play in the HackWurld. It might even convert you to playing HackMaster...

They "got" it because WotC used their comic without a licence (WotC doing something like that? Surely not!). It was a windfall and a destructive move against the older D&D versions by the 45 year old "new kids" at WotC.

Alright, I'm not going to touch how it happened, however...

You state that it was a "destructive move against the older D&D versions." How so? If HackMaster hadn't come out, there would not be ANY version of the earlier AD&D editions out there. Whatsoever. Anywhere. They would have remained dead, dead, dead. At least, with HackMaster, if a guy wants to buy something for the older editions of AD&D (and at its core, that's all HackMaster is, AD&D 1E, with some 2E, some honest GOOD additions, and a number of silly bits). HackMaster isn't exactly what I would have done with AD&D, given the chance, but it is a lot closer than 3E D&D...

Besides, if you don't like it, don't buy it. No need to go ******* in someone elses' clam chowder just because you ordered the chicken noodle soup...

In regard to "Bottom line, it's fun stuff", sales say otherwise.

I'm, presuming you are actually in the business, and know what you are talking about here. I am. Have been for nearly a decade. From what I know (and I am not in the know at Kenzer on this) HackMaster sales numbers are such that any secondary game company would KILL to have their numbers. Compared to 3E D&D, or AD&D in it's "day," of course they are small numbers. But then, ANYTHING is small potatoes compared to those. Kenzer & Company is in the Top Ten game companies (#8, in fact), and the HeckMaster series is a regular seller; not nationwide, mind you, as it is a secondary game (as is anything compared to D&D).

Everyone's heard of D&D and without realising it have also heard of the Known World, as its adventures were universally distributed. Who's heard of Kenzer? Sod all people other than hardcore gamers. Does matching up the most ubiquitous setting ever with notorious second-stringers make sense? Not to me. Whatever.

While I am a huge fan of Mystara, even I would not claim it is the "most ubiquitous setting ever." I'd give that honour to the Forgotten Realms.

I can see that it would be a waste of time discussing it. Jonathan, good luck with playing whatever you like to play. Really.

However, there's just no need for you to go on and on about how much you hate HackMaster and everything associated with it. If you want to argue about it, please do so in a constructive way.

I don't like humorous games, nor do I want the game setting I have used for many, many years to become a comedy setting.

Mystara has always been quirky, distinctive and witty. Hackmaster hasn't.

My fingers are crossed.

Everything will be okay. It will remain a quirky, distinctive, and witty setting. It will just become moreso.

Mystara has always been dear to me. Ask any of the Old Ones on this list.

Look at any of my work on the Pandius site. Mystara is in good hands...

Considering that Mystara is a parody in and of itself to some extent, I certainly hope that James realizes this. One thing that frightens me is that he's going to change Irendi, which is just the type of setting that Hackmaster -is-, silly and irreverent. I mean, how can you NOT like Irendi?

I find the concept bizarre.

I can indeed not like Ierendi because, though there is a "parody" inherent factor in Mystara, Ierendi does not otherwise fit. There are so many things jarringly wrong with Ierendi, so many glaring inconsistencies with the way the rest of the nearby world works, that it doesn't just border on the absurd, it passes that border, and then jumps up and down on it while giving you a raspberry.

The "Disneyesque" bits of Ierendi will be retained on the Isle of Gaity, in the Alatians, in Alphatia, where they fit a lot better. The early '80s references, which no one will get anyway, will be excised with extreme prejudice. And into the incredible vacuum that remains will flow a nation that better fits the internal consistency of Mystara. A little bit Darokin, a little bit Minrothad, a little bit Five Shires. And, of course, the Merry Pirates. Heck, if you look at the history, the Merry Pirates make a better fit alone than anything in the actual Gazetteeer...

Everyone has the right to express their opinion about a product, but I draw the line when it degenerates into a potential flame war, like this. No one's interests will be served if this persists. Some of us - myself included - are a bit anxious about the announcement of this upcoming book.

All of us have a vested interest in ensuring that such a fascinating, well-detailled game world lives on in our minds, and in those of people whom we hope to win over. Some people here, and in other fora, have expressed misgivings about the suitability of Hackmaster as a vehicle for resurrecting Mystara - albeit in a modified form.

No one has more of a vested interest in seeing Mystara work in the HackMaster milieu than I. Spiritual, professional, and financial. This is going to be the best damn game setting anyone has ever seen. Okay, maybe except for Glorantha. And Tekumel, I'll give you that. Those worlds are things of beauty. Mystara is going to be beautiful. Mystara will be grand.

Mystara is going to kick ass. And it will do so in the HackMaster way, while maintaining the best of what Mystara originally had to offer, even moreso.

I, for one, am prepared to give James the benefit of the doubt. I had the pleasure of meeting him at GenCon in 2001, and found him to be a very pleasant person - easy to talk to. I also know that he is highly imaginative, and that he loves Mystara as much as any of us do - I do not believe that he would undertake such an effort (and what he is doing is a difficult task) if he did not think that it might, at some level, be of benefit to Mystaran fandom. With that in mind, I will gladly buy a copy of his book when it comes out, and reserve judgement until after I have read it.

Thank you! Indeed, I did not undertake this to cause any harm to Mystara. There will be changes (the most obvious geographical, as I mention in an earlier email), that will be major, but nothing will change that will destroy Mystara being Mystara. Please, all, as Geoff will do, reserve your judgement till you see the actual book. I guarantee you, after glancing it over in the aisles of your FLGS, you will grab your cash as quickly as possible and run to your nearest game table to start a new Mystara campaign... possibly even in HackMaster.

As others have pointed out, Mystara has never taken itself too seriously, and I am more than willing to overlook a possibly crass joke or two, if it results in increased interest in our favourite game world, which could, in turn, spark more interest in what we do.>

That is certainly one of my hopes. I am going to limit the "crass jokes" parody form, opting more for "more Mystara than Mystara" type of jokes. Of course, this statement is null and void when it comes to the Black Eagle Baron. He is, after all, the epitome of crassness, and the more the merrier, I think... (^_^).

So, I would ask all of you to calm down, and I would ask James to come forward and try to provide more details concerning what he is doing, if he is willing to do so.

I am going to give you all on this list as much information as I can. I am also going to keep some of my cards very close to my chest, as I do want some surprises for you. I hope Kenzer will be able to provide some previews, either in KoDT and/or their website. Still workign on that...

After all our beloved world only lives in our minds. We are all free to let in or out anything we judge fit for our campaign. i think it great to know that one of ours (fan of mystara) has been judged talented enough to be part of a professionnal team of writers.

Thank you! (^_^)

Actually, I do have other works already published. Check out "The Lost Tomb of Kruk-Ma-Kali," "Lands of Mystery," and "Harvest of Darkness" (my co-author credit with Jolly on "The Hungry Undead" got dropped off). Also, the "HackMaster Game Master's Guide." All from Kenzer & Company. Plus, "Dungeon World" (levels 5 and 6) from Fast Forward, and the "Relics & Rituals" from Sword & Sorcery. Plus, a year and a half worth of Scrye magazine. Oh, and a bunch of stuff on Mage Knight, HeroClix, and MechWarrior in Scrye, Inquest, and Game Trade, from my time at WizKids.


I envy you James for this. it must be great to live thanks to ones passion. if only i could live on my maps....

Ah, but you can indeed live off freelance writing and cartography.

If you can live off of raman noodles and popcorn, that is... (^_^)

Hey Mystaros, I love some of the ideas you are including. Especially like the Piracy Islands of Iernendi, which is what I have in my campaign (ie, Freport/Bral/Skullport)

Yeah, it always struck me as the perfect place for pirates, too... and now it will be! Arrgh!(^_O) [That's the One-Eyed Pirate Smile]

Thanks for the vote of confidence!

I also really like the idea of more monsters and the idea of no sinking of Alphatia. For my own campaign I am going to have the 1000 wizards of Alphatia mass teleport over Glantri, but as they cast their spells simultaneously they are instead going to create, a magical short throughout the world.Which the rest of the KW will forever condemn.

With the timeline reset to 1000 AC, this will never have occurred... however, there will still, oddly enough, be bits and pieces of the results of the WotI in the setting. How, you ask? Wait and see...

Also Love the idea of a more Viking barbarian realm for the Northlands.

Not only will the Northern Reaches be more barbaric, the Atruaghin and Ethengar will also be rather more so...

So when is this coming out? Can't wait!

Late summer this year. Or so the plan goes. But you know what they say about plans...

Do you, James, (or anyone else here on the list) know anything about this?

IE, was Jeff Grubb constrained from doing certain things in the KoK boxed set by editorial mandate, or something? And does anyone know any specifics of what he would have liked to have done?

I know exactly what he would have done; I carpooled with him when I worked at WizKids, and talked with him extensively about it. He was working on a "world book," much as we are doing with the Hacklopedia Mystarica (and was done with the Forgotten Realms in 3E D&D.) Had it almost done, in fact, when the suits at TSR (in those days) decided that they wanted to go with the boxed set, kingdom-by-kingdom format. So they scrapped the world book and did a revamp of the Gazetteer; that's why it is almost word-for-word a copy of the Gaz, even down to the mistakes. They had no time to do it, as the suits changed their mind at the last minute.

Pity, really, I think Mystara would have done much better, and been a going and growing concern for AD&D, had he had his way.

In my most humble opinion, xD&D tends to have lotsa joking / self-parody elements... that's especially true for Mystara, in TSR canon products, the GAZs are really high-pitched developments of fantasy clichés, with tons of RW glimpses and nuances...

[ONE parenthetical question to Mystaros: is the forthcoming product going to include some of these glimpses, only connecting to the RW now??? i think you're right with the Ierendi / California / Florida resort joke being a bit old... but are there any new ones coming (from present-day RW), or does the book delve more into fantasy stereotypes, neglecting the RW nuancing Mystara is so famous for?]

There will still be much humour, but built on cultural and gameplay elements, rather than trying to knock off of bad television shows (okay, I'll admit, I *did* like Magnum P.I.). Cliches will be based on fantasy elements. Wizards will be more wizarding than anything in the Forgotten Realms. Alphatia, which was horribly underdeveloped in Mystara Canon, will be much more developed. And in a case of fantasy being mocked by reality being mocked by fantasy, the Great School of Magic in Glantri will be, well... wait till you see.

What it will do is use the fantasy stereotypes that are generated by the RW cultures that they are based upon. Traladara and Boldavia will be more "mytically Transylvanian," Ylaruam will make the "Arabian Nights" seem tame by comparison, the Ethengar will make any historical tales of the Mongols seem like tales of the "West Side Story" gang battles.

Remember, my mantra for this is "More Mystaran than Mystara."

I think Ierendi is just fine. So what if they have a theme park! Mystara is a more magically heavy world than most AD&D/D&D settings. Magic is fairly well integrated into everyday life, even though most people are not magically inclined. There are serious aspects to Ierendi that are very cool.

I like the private detectives (and have created professions for my game to reflect these).

I gotta admit, it was a close thing, even with my own distaste for Ierendi.

I knew there would be a lot of players out there, like yourself, who would say "Why?"

However, I felt that, as Gaity in Alphatia would more than take up the slack on the Theme Park setting issue, I could give Ierendi the fair cultural and historical treatment it really deserved. The Makai will still be found in Mystara, but in more appropriate settings. When you take out the "Theme Park," the Makai, and the horrible '80s TV parodies, you didn't have much left. What you do have left are the following:

1) Elegy Isle -- still there, slightly changed due to the change in history, but still very cool.

2) Honor Island -- The Hono Island mages still figure prominently, and are still the core of the Royal Navy.

3) Coral Palace -- The Coral Palace is still there.

4) Adventurer's Paradise -- The aspect where adventurers are welcomed, even revered, still exists. There is even still an annual contest; the winner becomes a Knight of the Realm, one of the Peers of Ierendi.

New Elements:

The Merry Pirates from the Hollow World are now found here, in Ierendi. The whole history of them are fit in with the history of Ierendi, Minrothad, Traladara, Thyatis, Darokin, and even the Northern Reaches. They figure prominently in the Great Rebellion. Halflings, appropriately enough, also figure more prominently. The general culture is a mixture of Thyatis/Darokin/Traladara/Darokin. The Queen (descended from the old Royal Family of Darokin, a point of contention to this day) is guarded by the Royal Bladesmen (think Musketeers without muskets). The Royal Peerage is made up of adventurers that have won the Royal Tournament of Adventurers.

The Bladesmen and the Peerage have a rivalry. The Royal Navy is powerful, and supported by the Ironclad Fireships of Honor Island. The Royal Buccaneers, pirates under letters of marque, are more than their equal in numbers. Think Sir Francis Drake as played by Errol Flynn. The Royal Navy and the Royal Buccaneers do not get along much. The Honor Island Mages, descended from Flaems from Glantri, do not get along with the White Isle Wizards, who are more traditional generalist magic-users descended from Alphatians.

Importantly, the islands were not "discovered" by the Hin and the Thyatians in the 6th century AC. Silly idea, that. There is a whole comprehensive history, which will fit in with everything else that happened in the area.

The Ierendi Isles did not exist in a vacuum for a thousand years.

Basically, take the movies "Elizabeth" (and maybe "Shakespeare in Love,") add in "Yellowbeard," "The Three Musketeers," and "The Sea Hawk," and you get the basic idea of what the new Ierendi is all about.

And, of course, if you don't like it... don't use it. All I ask is that you give it a try.

Hey this sounds really cool. I like the new ideas and the changes listed so far, the choice of 1000AC, and so forth. I also think that setting the silliness tone equal to Glantri (rather than Ierendi) is perfect.

Thanks! I think a Glantri tone is about right too. That was, relaly, quite HackMaster, when you think of it. Plus, remember, the HackFactor will also be boosted a bit, too...

One question: will Mystara be altered to include grunge elves, gnome titans, and the like? Or will the different HM "worlds" have regional variations? I'd hate to see the shadow elves replaced by grunge elves and drow.

Yes, it will have Grunge Elves and Gnome Titans. Nothing will be changed to add them (well, okay, almost nothing.) Grunge Elves will be found in the Midlands region (fits in with what I had always described the elves of that area as, anyway, in my Midlands). Some clans will be found wandering the forests here and there, showing the humans and other elves what-for. Gnome Titans will definitely make an appearance. In the HackWurld of Mystaros they come from the steppes and hills of the far west, and are followers of Dorfin. They have been swarming into the HackWurld in recent years, looking for revenge against the Gnolls and Kobolds that slaughtered their kinsmen.

Shadow Elves will NOT be replaced by Drow. Shadow Elves will remain Shadow Elves.

Suggestion: I'd like to see more "adventuring" opportunities sprinkled in. Not long ago there was a discussion of large mega-dungeons in Mystara, or the lack thereof. I'd like to see some megadungeons, some big nasty villains, and the like. I'd like to see the "underdark" expanded a bit, some competition for shadow elves, and the like. I don't mean changing anything in a major way, but the way Mystara was developed, each region is self-contained, with vague disjointed borders in between where it would be easy to insert connections and ruins and adventuring opportunities.

Oh... there will be PLENTY of adventuring opportunities. I did say the HackFactor was being cranked up, right? Plus, as I mentioned earlier, the Hollow World will nto be there... but *something* will be... (^_^)

Anyway, sounds great. This could breathe new life into the setting. I think Mystara fits much better into HM than 3E. BTW, there was a "Hackmaster Lite" rumor floating around a while back. Any chance it is true (please pleeeeze) and any chance you might use it for HackMystara? I'd LOVE to see a new BD&D replacement complete with a revamped Known World to go with it...

I haven't heard of a "HackMaster Lite." But then, I'm not an employee of Kenzer, so who knows... This book, however, is being written for standard HackMaster.

Will HackMystara be a single FR-style book, or a series of gazetteers, or what?

Right now we are planning on the single book, scheduled to be 256 pages.

Whether further books come out after is determined entirely on how sales of the core book go.

Are you going to take into account the Kamminer Bay area south of Landfall and north of Heldann? Myself and several other cartographers have long noticed that there is some inconsistencies with the maps of the Known World and the maps of the northlands (probably due to the various maps having come out in different products, and not being connected). The Kamminer Bay was our solution to the dilemma, as by all efforts (mine, at least, and I believe Thibault's as well) there should be a large bay in that region- the Landfall map in CM1 doesn't match up with the Heldann maps of later eras without it.

Yes, this has always been one of the cartographic nightmares of Mystara. I have fixed it much as you guys did. The official appearance, in the WotI map, showed it much further north, but that just didn't jibe with the materials in GAZ 9. Plus, I wanted Landfall, and the Wyrmsteeth, to fit on the HackWurld map. It is called "Dragon Bay," as many dragons have been encountered near it.

Also, as I mentioned in an earlier post (in regards to your Atruaghin clans stuff), the plateau of the Atruaghin tribes is smaller in the 8 mile version than it is on the 24 mile versions.

Yes, that is another of the fixes. As I mentioned in my earlier Westerlands posts, the Atruaghin get fixed a bit...

So is there going to be more detail on Alphatia, then? I can just imagine where you might be going with Blackheart... it's a place I planned to go some time ago myself, albeit through a "parody" website that never quite took off. I've still got most of the web designs somewhere, maybe I'll post them up on my page. It was going to be called Malebolge University- if anyone has ever read the comic book "Finals" think that series meets Mystara- a magical university where few of the students ever survive their final thesis projects to graduate...

Yes, there will be as much detail on Alphatia (Alphatia ALONE, not including colonies and Bellissaria) as there will be on any FOUR of the other nations.

This will give character to each of the kingdoms and regions of Alphatia.

Not as much detail as I would like, but more than has been available before.

Not every Alphatian wizard is a zzonga-crazed maniac (okay, most are, but you get the idea).

Do you mean that you will discuss why WotI didn't happen? Or something else entirely?

Yes and yes. This will be one of the surprises.

Any Sind here? Or no? (FWIW, I think Allen Varney's treatment of the Sindhi in HWA3 was very well done, and I still don't quite understand why much of it was discarded or dropped in the Champions of Mystara boxed set...)

Yes, but not in any great detail. There will only be so much room, unfortunately. Cross your fingers that it does well... if so, there may be more books.

Anyway, congratulations on this James. I know it must be a dream come true for you, and I truly don't think there are many better hands that I'd entrust such an undertaking to. Even though I don't play Hackmaster (nor know too much about it, save for what I've seen in the KoDT comic when I was still reading it), I'll be sure and pick this one up! Count yourself down for one sale, at least.

Thanks! I will NOT disappoint you! You should definitely pick up HackMaster. Use the bits you like, don't use the bits you don't. Unlike certain other editions of D&D, which shall remain nameless (cough... 3E...

cough), you CAN do that. (^_^)

Hey Mystaros, are you going to include a race of Orcs that would actually pose a threat? Like the Scro in Spell Jammer?

Beastmen will be addressed in several ways:

1) Game Masters will be given a LOT of detail on which regions are controlled by or otherwise inhabited by Beastmen races, where those groups raid into, their strength and numbers, etc.

2) The Broken Lands will remain essentially the same, organizational wise, though they will be more "serious" in tone, and thus, more deadly.

3) There are a lot more new and interesting races from HackMaster that will be ported over.

4) Let's just say there is a reason why the Great Escarpment ("Upper Thothia") of the Isle of Dawn has never been conquered...

5) Mmmm... Denagoth!

6) Hint: Find my information on the Pantheon of Great Hule.

7) Hyboria. 'Nuff said!

Alphatia has been unwilling due to her prevailing pacifist philosophy to extend into other territories, but were they to be aware of any major civilisations on the planet with major magical ability they couldn't fail to be interested; she doesn't reach far into Skothar because the people there are good only for slaves, she doesn't put more effort into Norwold because that turbulent region isn't civilised enough to interest her (Alphatia isn't a civiliser). But in a few short years after finding out that the rumours of a Hollow World are true she extended her influence as far as that; it seems self evident that were there any major civilisations on the world with which Alphatia had either common magical or cultural interest she would strive to deal with them.

Indeed, however, unless there is a society in the core Garweeze Wurld equivalent to Alphatia, there are no such societies extant on Aldrazar.

Let's take a look at all the other TSR worlds that might (note: might) someday apply, and be adapted to HackMaster:

Greyhawk: Greyhawk, for all that it is a fantastical setting, has nowhere near the magical concentration in any one nation that Alphatia does. The only nation that ever had such magical power was that of the old Suel Empire, which was destroyed in the Rain of Colorless Fire almost a thousand years ago. Now, it would be very well likely that they did, at one time, have connexions in those ancient days, however, today, the Alphatians would avoid that region like the plague! Perhaps some slight trade, once explorers reach the region.

Birthright: Like Greyhawk, a median-range magical setting, with little to make it worth the Alphatian's Imperial Interest. Stong enough to resist, not rich enough to be worth the effort. Perhaps some slight trade. Perhaps some slight trade, once explorers reach the region.

Dark Sun: Yes, there is always the possiblility of them converting Dark Sun to HackMaster. I wouldn't want to be the one to do it, though. If they did, I seriously doubt that Alphatia would be interested in conquering anything here; way too poor, and those psionic powers are way too effective for resistance. I doubt there would even be any trade, save perhaps between Blackheart and certain specific kings.

Ravenloft: Already been done, to an extent (the module Robinloft is a parody of the original module, and is set in Garweeze Wurld), and that's probably as far as it will go, due to the licensing of the setting to White Wolf.

Forgotten Realms: The Realms has several magically powerful nations, notably Halruaa, Lantan, and Gond. These, were Alphatia aware of them, would definitely be trading partners. Conquest would be out of the question, as their power, due to FR magic inflation, would be on-par with anything the Alphatians could actually get around to organizing. Again, it just wouldn't be worth it.

Kara-Tur: The Empires of Kara-Tur would be on-par, if not greater than Alphatia. The Alphtians would more than likely let sleeping dragons lie, and simply open up trade with the mandarins and the daimyo.

Zakhara: Bad mojo here, with the Sha'ir's being as powerful in their own way as the Alphatian wizards. Another hornets nest that the Empire would want to leave alone, save for some slight trade.

But again, remember, except in the case of the long-lost Suloise Empire in Greyhawk, most interaction would entirely be extremely recent... so culturally speaking, there would ahve been next to no influence either way.

As far as the Hollow World interaction goes, well, I gotta say, I always felt it was contrived, and merely done to help establish Alphatia in the Hollow World after the writers destroyed it! After all, there were plenty of other primitive regions on the surface world that would have been a lot easier to conquer more profitably.

I find many of James' ideas interesting. I dont mind a few changes here and there, and if it turns out that I dont like them nothing stops me from using my old gazetteers instead. And hopefully, this book will bring more people to this list aswell! Now James, you said summer right?

Yep, that's the plan. Fingers crossed...

(In regard to JM's statement: "Yes, that is another of the fixes. As I mentioned in my earlier Westerlands posts, the Atruaghin get fixed a bit..."): Oo. Ooo. Oooooo!

Did I just hear you say the "Westerlands" and the revised Atruaghin, per your recent email messages (much of which I have already selflessly begun to purloin for my own 3E campaign) will be an official part of the Hackwurld?

I never thought I'd see the day I'd be salivating over a *HackMaster* supplement of all things, but... well... <droo-oo-oo-ool> {Oh dear, sorry 'bout that. Didn't mean to get all your keyboards wet....

Here, let me get a napkin...}

Quite all right. We WANT people salivating over this. Drool on! (^_^)

Not intended as flame bait or anything, but you can disregard bits of (and even add bits to) 3E if you choose. The DMG is full of variant rule options, and usually includes reasons why they weren't selected as a core rule and what kind of impact they might have on a campaign as a whole.

Realistically, any DM can pick up almost any RPG and choose to "Rule Zero" something.

Yes, when DMing one's own game, it can be done. When designing for publication, however, it is another matter entirely...

However, 3E D&D, I still believe, is one of the most difficult to do this in, and still maintain internal consistency.

By the way - will I *need* whatever the core HackMaster books are to understand the "Hackwurld of Mystaros" if all I want to do is borrow the ideas and port it into a 3E campaign, and what are they, exactly, if I do need them? (Just want to know what kind of fiscal layout I'll need to calculate into my "RPG Budget" for the end of the year...)

No, you will not need HackMaster to play. However, I guarantee you, you will eventually WANT to play it with HackMaster, as that will be the best way to get maximum utility out of the setting in this design...

(In regard to James's statement: "And in a case of fantasy being mocked by reality being mocked by fantasy, the Great School of Magic in Glantri will be, well... wait till you see."):

"Oh my," she says, as visions of broomsticks, blodgers and snitches dance in her head... Now if that is even *vaguely* in the direction you're heading my eyes are sparkling even brighter in anticipation. But do be oh so careful about the copyright issues (though, as a parody of one source placed inside a parody of another source you might just have a bit more leeway than normal there...)

Let's just say it won't be anything blatant, like the Elfquest knockoff in Alfheim, but, it will certainly capitalize on the growing awareness of the concept of "schools of magic" and so forth. Oh, maybe, you never know, I might sneak a young student from Blackhill into the mix, a fellow with an interesting history and a "fireball" shaped scar on his forehead... (^_^).

By the way - I also approve of the Merry Ierendi Pirate Isles. I too, have merged Green Ronin's Freeport setting into my Ierendi as it certainly fits the mold (and you totally have my permission to rip and rend anything you like out of my merged history!)

Freeport itself won't be there, due to licensing concerns. However, the history of the Ierendi Isles will be such that it will readily fit...

remember, I will be using my Nithian history in this, and the Ierendi Isles are the remnants of Set's old Isle of the Serpent...

However I am wondering - you've made frequent mention of the "tourist trap" and "80's TV show references" issues of Ierendi, but none whatsoever of the other elements, so I pose the following questions: In the Hackwurld of Mystaros, what will become of the following?

Lot's of questions here, somoe of which I cannot answer yet (as I want there to be *some* surprises, after all)...

* Government:

* Still a Kingdom with King, Queen and nominated Tribunal?

* Does the Castle of Ierendi still exist?

Still a Kingdom, with a Queen. The Queen is young, not yet married, and still lives in the beautiful Castle Ierendi. Royalty is hereditary in this Ierendi, not determined by Royal Tournament.

* Adventurers:

* Does the Adventurers' Club still exist?

* Is there still a Royal Tournament of Adventurers?

* Is it still responsible for the selection of the King & Queen?

* Are "help/jobs wanted" postings still found somewhere (on "The North Wall of the castle" or otherwise)

Adventurers are plentiful in Ierendi; the Merry Pirates are not the only roguish types found in the islands. Ierendi City will be extremely cosmopolitan, and the "place to find heroic types." There is still a Royal Tournament, however, the winner becomes a Peer of the Realm (a Knight), not King or Queen. Peerage is for life, provided the Peer doesn't screw things up. The North Wall will be there; in order to get invited to compete in the Royal Tournament (yest, you ahve to be invited to compete), you must have come to the attention of the Queen and the Peerage through past heroics.

* Religion:

* Does "The People's Temple" still exist?

Not as such, though there is an informal religion, sort of like a combination between the Traladaran faith and "Wicca," as presented in fantasy novels. It is an outgrowth of the original Traldar religion and the rustic faiths brought in by Kerendan, Hattian, and other settlers. It will be called "The Faith" by adherents, and "The People's Temple" by upper-class detractors. The "Royal Church of Ierendi" (RCoI) will be similar to the Karameikan Church and the Church of Darokin, in that it is formal, with formalized ritual and canon.

* What of the Utter Island Albino's and their sandcastle religion?

Utter Island will make the conversion mostly intact, it is too cool not to.

The changes that will be made will be based on the history of what went on around them, plus, more about their own history.

How about the Whitenight Druids on White Island?

White Island will now be the home of the White Island Wizards, descended from Alphatian emigres. The WIW are more generalist magic-users, versus their competitors, the Honor Island Mages, who are fire elementalists.

Education & Training:

* Ierendi Public Schools?

* Ierendi School of the Arts?

* Ierendi Naval Academy?

Education and training is a core concept to HackMaster, and this element will not only be there in full in Ierendi, it will be expanded upon throughout the HackWurld.

* Aloysius island:

* Is it/was it a penal colony?

* Is there still a penitentiary there?

* Will there still be gold and gem deposits there?

* Have they been found?

* If found, have dwarves flocked to the island to craft them?

* Do Mau-mau mosquitoes still exist?

Aloysius Island will change significantly. This is partly because the islands will not be jungle-clad tropical islands (though they will still be forested). Aloysius will still have a dwarven population, and still be a source of gold and gems.

* The Makai:

* Will the natives themselves still exist?

* What of their "ancient magics" (_Doze_ breadfruit and _Mau-mau bane_) * Are their "ancient burial grounds" on Elegy Island?

Yes and no. I'm holding this one close to my chest.

* Miscellaneous

* What's up with Honor Island and the Honor Island Mages?

They will still be there, and expanded upon.

* Is Fletcher Island still famous birds and feathered art?

Yes and no. (^_^)

* Bargle the Wizard, Jr. (nephew of Ludwig's hireling) still be around?

Yes. (^_^)

Hey Mystaros, a personal question on Ierendi. How detailed is the government structure going to be? I mean will you have names and power groups for the natiion? I hope so, as this will really help my personal campaign!

Each nation will have a solid block of detail, more than the Almanacs, but obviously not as much detail as the Gazetteers. There will be enough detail to get the basic politics of each nation, includinbg who's who, various organizations, and so forth. It won't go into depth on who has dirt on whom, and such, but there will be enough to work with. I hope to be able to have a column in KoDT to cover more details as things go along... a regular monthly, sort of like Bruce Heard's "Known World Grimoire" from back in the old Dragon.

Well, Not to toot our own horns, but the ever Chaotic Good group over at Jenni's Mystara 3e group has been discussing things for a good while now, and will have web published things quite soon, as soon as our bickering over the cosmology has died down to acceptible levels.

Yes, I've been watching the Mystara 3E group for some time. While what the group is doing is great, there is still a vast difference in effect between an actual printed book and a web puplication. The average PDF sold on RPGNow only sells a couple hundred copies, if that, whereas we are looking at a lot more people picking up an actual book.

Okay... So will that lead to cross-pollination of ideas from one part to the other? How does one then fit in the racial histories of the assorted peoples/demi humans of Mystara?

When you are talking about continents separated widely by oceans, histories don't generally cross in broad patterns except every couple of millennia.

Remember, there was a 10 to 15 thousand year gap between the last major cultural influx from Eurasia to North America and the current one. That's about the same amount of time for the differentiation between surface elves and Drow in most campaign settings, and that period of time, even for the elves, was long ago and mostly forgotten.

How would you reconcile the presence of such globally important powers as Alphatia having little interraction with regions that would be in the Greyhawk setting?

This actually is not much of a worry. Just look at Mystara's own history to see why. Alphatia may indeed be a global power, however, the direct influence she has had over other nations of Brun has been spotty. Alphatia has been around for 2000 years, yet Norwold, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump across the water, is still as barbaric as ever. Thyatis, yes, she had a great influence on. Ylaruam less, the Northern Reaches barely at all. Then look to her eastern borders, and she only recently had any affect on Skothar.

How could the relatively magic-rich setting of Mystara fit in with the somewhat lower magic settings?

Now, if you are talking about "basic magical energy" versus "use of magic," that can be simply explained with the flow of magic being stronger on one continent than another. If it is with "use of magic," like with Alphatians versus all others in the Known World, magic-use would simply be genetically more common among certain people than others, or the tradition would be older, and it would be a cultural thing.

Will it be d20 or D&D 3(3.5)E compatible?

Inasmuch as HackMaster is based on 1st Edition and 2nd Edition AD&D, yes. It will not have d20 or 3rd Edition D&D stats. Kenzewr & Company can only use the old materials for HackMaster, not d20 or D&D.

So, another question.

Given the fact:

a. it will be using Hackmaster rules (which are an odd mix of AD&D 1st and 2nd Edition)

b. it will completely rewrite a great deal of the history of Mystara, thus affecting the current situation of many nations c. it will include only Alphatia, Brun and the Isle of Dawn (with other Thyatian territories)

WHY should a person like me, who already owns all previously Mystara related supplements and wants to stick to old Mystara setting, buy your Hackwurld of Mystaros (and spend 39 US$ on that)? I was looking anxiously for a conversion of Mystara to 3E rules, but this will something more like "My homebrew Mystara for AD&D 1-2 Ed updated to 1000 AC". Err... what's so interesting for the old fanbase to push them buy it? (also understand I don't plan on using Hackmaster: I'm perfectly at ease with modified OD&D)

First of all, realize, a published conversion of Mystara to 3E is not going to happen. If it could be done, I would already have been working on it. We all know each other, that is, all the old fans of Mystara, and I don't know of any of us that has an extra $30,000 sitting around. That is what it would take to be able to do Mystara for d20, in a fashion that would be allowed by the licensors (WotC/Hasbro). Believe me, I know the costs in this industry, and that is what it would take. WotC licensors have to publish using only the best materials, the best writers, and the best marketing, sales, and distribution. And that's what it would cost to get a proper book out the door (and that's not counting any $ WotC would want up front, either.) Unless there is an angel sitting out there, lurking on this list... if so, drop me a note, and we'll talk... (^_^)

As for "Why, if I am counted among all of the above, would I want to buy this?" Tough call. I think this is book is going to rock, but then I am biased. I feel that this book will be superior to anything out there for the following reasons:

1) It will be a COMPLETE Mystara guide. It will cover the entire Known World, and then some. Sure, some folks will weep for the Simbasta, and the N'jatewa, and the Varellyans, but face it, 95% of the setting that was described will still be there.

2) The Wrath of the Immortals will not have happened. Everything will be set back to 1000 AC. This will make it a LOT easier for new players to get into the setting. So much weird stuff happened to Mystara in the WotI... it just was untenable. Most "re-inventions" of settings are done to try and make the setting BETTER... this one, I would argue, made it WORSE. It destroyed Alphatia. It destroyed Alfheim. It muddled with the other nations to a greater or lesser extent. Nothing that happened in the WotI made Mystara more accessible to players. In fact, it took everything that had gone before, everything that had been written, and negated it, except as historical footnotes. It had, in fact, the opposite effect, and pushed a lot of people away from the setting. Look at what happened to any of the other AD&D settings after such apocalyptic events...

This is a tough one for many to swallow, as, yes, much of the stuff that was done on this list was done post-WotI, and thus that seems to negate it all. Sort of, it does. You will be able to use whatever you want with it, whatever you have developed, or others have developed, as you wish. Nothing stops you from doing that, unless you wanted to play an official HMPA game set in the HackWurld. As you say, though, you will not be playing HackMaster, so, no loss to you.

3) As far as getting people to START playing in Mystara, there will be no better starting point! DM's and players will have everything they need to start playing in one handy book. Now, if you want someone to play with you in Mystara, either you have to set them down and explain everything to them that will get them "into" the setting, or they have to go and buy a ton of long out-of-print books at exhorbitant prices, or they have to read scores of pages on the Vaults. Neither way is a good way to get new fans. Now, they just buy this book, and bam! They are playing Mystara. Or, rather Mystaros.

If you want to convert them, that's none of my business. I think they will want to convert you to the HackMaster version, but hey, that's me... (^_^)

4) Though this will be a definitive HackMaster book, and it will be the HackWurld of Mystaros, not the Known World of Mystara, it will still be playable with any game... just add your own stats. Pure and simple. I can guarantee, however, that unless you loathe HackMaster to the very fibre of your being, this will make you WANT to play it in HackMaster.

5) To toot my own horn a bit here, yes it will basically incorporate much of my Mystara materials. If you like what you have seen with I have done with Mystara on this list, you will want to get this book. This book will be the definitive "HackWurld of Mystaros" in more ways than one.

Will it be named Mystara or how?

For legal and copyright reasons, it will be known as the "HackWurld of Mystaros," or simply the "HackWurld." This reflects back to the "Known World of Mystara." The setting is actually a part of Aldrazar, which is Garweeze Wurld, the official HackMaster setting. Stirctly speaking, the HackWurld proper will be the old Known World, minus the Thanegioth Archipelago and plus Wendar, Denagoth, the Heldann Territories, and Landfall.

Ahem, another question rises. IF you don't name it Mystara because it's something different (as u explained us), then WHY in the Five Shires you have kept the name of the other dominions? Why didn't you twitch them as well, so to mantain the parody throughout the whole campaign, making it a different thing yet with obvious references? I don't really understand this editorial strategy... It's like saying: "IT's really Mystara, but I'm naming it in another way because, you see, it's different from the old campaign you're used at. It's better and more fun! We'll leave the old nations names just to remind everyone what we're talking about." It's an odd confusing mish-mash...

The reason the name changed from "Known World of Mystara" to "HackWurld of Mystaros," was for trademark and legal reasons. "Mystara" is a brand trademark. "Darokin," "Thyatis," and "Glantri" are not (though strictly speaking, "Glantri" is a trademark, it is not a brand trademark.) It's a legal, not creative reason. If we could call it the "Known World of Mystara" we would. Though we would probably call it the "HackWurld" anyway, as that fits in with HackMaster.

Will it be serious or more like K&C's Little Keep on the Borderlands?

It will definitely be a parody, but rather more serious than the Little Keep on the Borderlands. It has to be a parody, to keep within the bounds of the license, however, the parody for the Hacklopedia Mystarica wil be in making it more Mystaran than Mystara. There will also be the oddball stuff, too, but I need to pack a LOT of information in the book, so the oddball stuff will be kept tight, and within the realm of fantasy, game system, and gaming culture cliche.

Uh? Pardon me, but I stand much confused... I guess I won't be able to understand what you're trying to say here until I have a copy under my nose...

Take everything that makes Mystara "Mystara," and crank it up a couple notches. This is indeed a tough one to describe, and I think, as you say, people will really have to read it over to see what I mean. But once you do see it, you will understand what I meant by this...

In which era will it be set (because you mention Taymora and Carnifex which are little to nothing relevant to modern day Mystara)?

It will be set in 1000 AC, because I really wanted to keep Alphatia in it, and didn;t want to have to leave players with a ruined world to start out with. However, the history will be the most comprehensive ever seen for Mystara, and possibly for any game setting. The Carnifex, Taymorans, and Nithians will be there as they were very large empires that had a massive effect on the HackWurld. The history section with be chock full of adventure ideas and such based on this.

Will you use all of the old Immortals and planar cosmology of Mystaran Multiverse?

The Immortals will be there, but they will be... different. How this works is one of the secrets I need to keep... sorry. The planar cosmology will have to go, as it will have to be adapted to the cosmology of Garweeze Wurld.

I see. What about the level of magic? Will you finally give a plausible explanations of why the 1000 36th level wizards of Alphatia haven't yet run over the whole world with their immense powers?

The level of magic will remain coherent with that derived from the HackMaster game, which follows AD&D 1E and 2E systems and assumptions. The Alphatian Council of Wizards will consist of 1,000 Alphatian magic-users that have attained "name" level, which, depending on the magic-user class, would be 10th or 11th level. There will also be political requirements for being on the Council. This is one of the things that's being "fixed" in the HackWurld. Alphatian politics will be dealt with in depth.

What about this Mystaros NPC you mentioned? You said it will be Mystara's version of Elmunchster for FR. I seriously hope you're not using the same old cliched stereotype of the One Man Show Saves The World that constantly goes with FR, because if there was something likeable in Mystara and different from FR was the absence of omnipotent NPCs to kick the PCs butt or save the day in time of crisis. Care to elaborate?

Don't worry, Mystaros, though a "lead character" like Elminster, is not Elminster. He does not come in at the last minute to save people's butts. He is not a Deus Ex Machina. Imagine him more like Fizban from Dragonlance, crossed with Mordenkainen from Greyhawk. He will happily inform the adventurers of their mission, then, when they get toasted by the swack-iron dragon, sigh, shake his head, take out his list of Heroic Adventurer Types and cross off their names, then go looking for the next party on the list.

As I say, my fingers are crossed. Thus far, I've been slightly uninspired with the Hackmaster publications, I therefore have a few qualms about a Hackmaster Mystara/Mystaros.

I hope over time to dispel these qualms enough for you to at least pick up the book and take a good look at it... (^_^)

May I ask a question about geography? You say that you're sinking many portions of Mystara, linking it to the 'great rain of fire'. Will this mean that the canon Hackmaster world will incorporate other parody gameworlds?

Yes, the HackMaster world of Aldrazar will incorporate every old D&D game setting that Kenzer & Company can publish. Which settings they can do, altogether, I do not know. I have heard talk of Greyhawk/Greyhack, and they did the adventure Ravenloft/Robinloft, but I'm not sure about the others.

(In regards to 3E mechanics): Gee, and I was thinking that this was a "good thing", but that could be the Physicist/programmer speaking. (likes near-perfect compatibility)

It is a "good thing" from that point of view -- however, it is also rather limiting.

Comparing it to physics, for example, in older D&D editions, the game design version of the Newton's Third Law ("For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction") was very weak, if not non-existent. You could, for instance, alter any one aspect of a monster's stats, and not affect anything else. In 3E D&D however, you ahve to go through and change any one of a dozen different things simply by changing one stat.

Leveling up is a bookkeeping nightmare in 3E compared to earlier editions.

I don't even want to get into designing monsters.

And the stat block? One of the sad things about 3E D&D from a writing standpoint is how many words the stat block takes up compared to what the old stat blocks took up.

This is one of the things that trips up many small game companies.

Especially those that can't shake 2E terminology and methodology. The systems are entirely different. In fact, it can readily be argued that 3E is not D&D at all, as in, it is not a logical evolution of earlier editions. It is, in fact, an entirely new game, built from the ground up. It owes as much to the Fuzion system as it does to older D&D editions.

It is still a very good game, but I much prefer the older editions for design work. Or HackMaster...

I'm fairly familiar with most of this stuff. What about the other *published* stuff that you mentioned? Do you have the links to product caatalogs for these companies?

The Kenzer products can be found in the Kalamar section of their website at:

Dungeonworld can be found on the Fast Forward Entertainment site at:

The magazines articles are all in older issues, which you can probably only find at your local shops, if at all...

Oh! And, also, I had several articles in earlier issues of OD&Dities (issues 4, 5, and 6), the fanzine by Richard Tongue. One of the best fanzines out there. You can find OD&Dities at:

Issue #5 includes my Gazetteer of the Ryaset of Angorit, on the Serpent Peninsula, entirely Mystaran in nature, and, of course, for OD&D.

BTW, do you have a home page? I'd like to check out some of the work that you mentioned.

I myself do not have a homepage that is active anymore. Somewhere on Geocities/Yahoo there is the detritus of an old site that I haven't touched in, oh, three years or more. However, you can find most of my work that I put on the Web on Shawn Stanley's site, It's there with a ton of other cool stuff written by our compatriots on the august list...

In regards to the quote: "certain other editions of D&D, which shall remain nameless (cough...


> cough), you CAN do that. (^_^)":

Oh, I have to disagree here. The ruleset of 3e is fairly flexible.

Ooooh... I don't wanna get into this. But, I gotta say, from a design standpoint, that 3E D&D is a pain in the ass. There is a LOT more you have to do with it, a lot more that you have to check back with, a lot more that you have to adhere to, system wise, than in any other edition of D&D. You can't just make a monster off the cuff, for example, as you ahve to make sure that it follows the guidelines of so many hit dice based on size, the ability scores must conform to specific ranges based on size and type, abilities must work within the defined ranges (or be explained as a new, distinct speecial ability or quality), each monster must have so many feats and so many skills based on hit dice and Intelligence... the list goes on and on. The same goes for making magic items and NPCs. It is a writers nightmare... By comparison, HackMaster is a veritable buffet of rules. You don't like it, change it, and it won't affect any other aspect of the game to the point that it becomes unworkable.

However, you're talking about a campaign supplement, not rules - If you don't like the new Karameikos, don't use it and such. Totally different regimes. The rules are going to be much less flexible than a campaign setting, I hope. I should be able to take Elminster out of the Realms continuity completely, as if he never existed, replacing him with a series of other mages through the years, and actually make that setting respectable, y'know?

Yes, in the case of campaign settings, just about any world can do this. It is different for game systems, however...

Just out of curiosity, was any of the content also inspired by some of the work from the Vaults, besides your own? I'm sure no one on this List would mind if that was the case, but I thought I'd ask.

Unfortunately, I can't really use the info from the Vaults (besides my own) due to copyright issues. However, whenever there are major issues of debatable nature, such as "Just WHERE does Norwold fit in," I delved into what everyone on the MML thought, as an assist. So yes, everyone here has had and will have some influence in the design, in as much as I have used their designs/decisions/ideas/complaints to temper my own.

On a second note, would there be any chance of you plugging the MML?

Probably not, but I thought I'd go out on a limb...

I hope to be able to do just that, but I haven't found out from Kenzer yet.

I can't think of any reason why not, unless it would be some arcane aspect of their licensce with WotC. Anything we can do to help sell this puppy would be great, from their (and my perspective), while of course, personally, I want to help push Mystara overall. So we shall have to wait and see...

In regard to James' statement: "First of all, realize, a published conversion of Mystara to 3E is not going to happen. If it could be done, I would already have been working on it.":

Everything can be done if you have:



That said, I'm doing it, having seen that it's no use waiting for the Mystara 3E Team to put out something in the near future. It won't be graphically as good as the published works, but it will be useful for playing Mystara 3E and it will be free. My only problem is TIME. THat's why I hoped your Mystara would use 3E rules: this way I'd have stopped working on it saving time for other things I have to do :p Btw, isn't it possible to Dual-stat it for Hackmaster and D&D 3E (like many other publishers do, see Pinnacle with Deadlands d20 and Gygax's stuff for Necromancer games)?

The issue is not it being done in some fashion, the issue is it being done in print, distributed professionally, and sold in retail stores. Also, the issue is getting paid. I am now a full-time writer and game designer. This is how I pay my bills.

As for dual-stating, that is not possible, due to the license requirements.

It isn't a matter of Kenzer not being able to use D20 in their products in general, it is a matter of them not being able to use D20 with licensed WotC properties in specific.

In regard to JM's statement: "We all know each other, that is, all the old fans of Mystara, and I don't know of any of us that has an extra $30,000 sitting around." Uhm.... only 30K bucks? Ah, but it doesn't take into account the money to buy the license or to distribute the book uh?

Exactly. Bringing a book successfully to market is neither cheap nor easy.

Bringing a book to market unsuccessfully can be cheap, but...

In regards to JM's statement: "It will be a COMPLETE Mystara guide. It will cover the entire Known World, and then some. Sure, some folks will weep for the Simbasta, and the N'jatewa, and the Varellyans, but face it, 95% of the setting that was described will still be there."

Uhm, excuse me, but what do you call the Poor Wizards Almanac? People said there was never a complete guide to Mystara, but the PWA has been there to read for years and I think it's the most complete guide to Mystara one could ever wish for... I hope you Hackwurld of Mystaros will be better, of course.

But don't tell me people we never had a worldbook for Mystara coz that is blatantly false.

Worldbooks and Almanacs are two completely different creatures. A player new to Mystara could not pick up an almanac and just start playing Mystara. It gave enough general details to know what was going on for that year, and enough broad details to get the idea of what Mystara was about, but not enough to really get into it properly. Compare any Mystara Almanac with the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book for 3E D&D. That's the kind of difference I am talking about.

In regard to JM's statement: "The Wrath of the Immortals will not have happened. Everything will be set back to 1000 AC.":

This is a tough one for many to swallow, as, yes, much of the stuff that >was done on this list was done post-WotI, and thus that seems to negate it all.

And here we come to my main gripe about what's about to happen. Basically, what I fear here is that we'll have two "official Mystaras" going around.

We'll have TSR Mystara (or Bruce's Mystara if you want to tie it to a specific designer) and we'll have Kenzer's Mystara (or James's Mystara), and that will cause IMO a lot of problems in the future when fans of Mystara will start talking and debating about the campaign. Why? BEcause the reference material they'll be pointing at and taking as groundbase for their assumptions and adventures and such will be essentially different! That's what I fear: a split of Mystara's fanbase. We're already a few loyalists. Take the small bunch and fraction it and what you're left with is a dying clique that will "metaphorically speakin" war with another tiny cabal of revolutionary fans over the issue of "what's canon and what's not", which Mystara is best and which is lamest. And that's freaking pathetic, but I see it happening. I hope I'll be labeled as a pathetic visionary and all fans will prove to be incredibly smart and mature and not argue on these points. But still the issue of two different groundbases for discussion remains: we'll have 2 different Mystaras to refer to and that will cause a lot of problems.

This will not be a problem. The HackWurld of Mystaros will be Canon Mystara for HackMaster, not for D&D. The objective is not to simply play to the old Mystara fans, it is also to generate new ones. To be honest, if Kenzer felt that this book would appeal only to Mystara fanatics, it would not be done.

It would not be financially feasable.

As for "fracturing the fanbase," there is plenty of stuff on the Web doing that right now. Every major (and even most minor) articles published on the Vaults fractures the fanbase into two new groups, those that accept the material and adapt it, and those that do not, and keep going with whatever they themselves have developed (or something that others developed on the same subject before.)

In regard to JM's statement: "As far as getting people to START playing in Mystara, there will be no better starting point! DM's and players will have everything they need to start playing in one handy book. Now, if you want someone to play with you in Mystara, either you have to set them down and explain everything to them that will get them "into" the setting, or they have to go and buy a ton of long out-of-print books at exhorbitant prices, or they have to read scores of pages on the Vaults. Neither way is a good way to get new fans. Now, they just buy this book, and bam! They are playing Mystara. Or, rather Mystaros.

If you want to convert them, that's none of my business. I think they will want to convert you to the HackMaster version, but hey, that's me... (^_^)":

James, not to be unpolite, but we're talking about teaching people a new gaming system. It takes time and it takes will. And it takes money, of course. And since we already play OD&D and have started with 3E, I don't really see the need to throw in another system which is basically a rehash of AD&D (we are perfectly fine with our OD&D modified rules).

I think you severely understimate the number of players out there that still play only 1E and 2E AD&D. I don't know what it is like in Italy, but here in the US there is a HUGE group of players that never made the conversion. Like those who were plain happy with OD&D, they just stuck with the 1E and 2E material, and kept playing. They stopped buying because there was little for them to buy, it not supporting their own favorite game. When 2E came out in 1989, AD&D lost no less than two-thirds of it's "buying players," as in, only one third of players who bought 1E AD&D products and played them on a monthly basis bought into 2E AD&D. The rest just kept on playing their own game, or eventually quit altogether. This according to TSR's and WotC's own marketing studies. The reasons for this were many, but one of the primary reasons was that 2E was "phased in" over a period of time, so players saw little need to buy into the new edition. WotC learned from this, and 2E AD&D was killed cold-turkey: no products were sold for it after a specific time, and if you wanted to buy D&D, you had to get 3E. They also had a far stronger marketing and pre-sales push, as well. So the conversion of players from 2E to 3E was much stronger than 1E to 2E, however, they still lost about 25% of their audience. So overall, there are more players of 1E and 2E AD&D out there than there are players of 3E D&D. They simply are not very vociferous about it. Many have in fact stopped playing by now, due to family, work, school, what have you. Some got back into playing games due to the new edition. Many that I have talked to decided that they didn;t like the new edition, and continued playing, but went back to 1E or 2E. A fair number have jumped to HackMaster as, with HM, you can play it "serious" if you want, just like 1E/2E, but you also have a bunch of cool new races and classes to play with. That's the way I play it, myself.

In regard to JM's statement: "To toot my own horn a bit here, yes it will basically incorporate much of my Mystara materials. If you like what you have seen with I have done with Mystara on this list, you will want to get this book. This book will be the definitive "HackWurld of Mystaros" in more ways than one."

eheh, I remember when we discussed on the list with you, you always made reference to YOUR Mystara campaign, thus throwing us all into chaos and hijacking the topic. I guess now you'll be finally able to refer to your campaign with others knowing what you're actually talking about ;p

Well, whenever anyone writes anything about Mystara, it is always "in their own campaign." Officially, nothing we have ever done, any of us, on this list, has been "Canon Mystara." Even Bruce's material has only a quasi-official foundation to it. It has all been interpretations of Canon.

I've just always been include a disclaimer ahead of time. There will be a similar disclaimer in the Hacklopedia Mystarica, except it will state that the book IS Canon HackWurld for HackMaster. Not for OD&D, not for 2E AD&D, and not for 3E D&D. Just for HackMaster.

And Alphatia would want to explore and find new lands to subjugate and dominate because it's an Empire that thrives on colonialism and imperialism, much like Thyatis. And it has the power to do it, so why not? Its history is a clear sign of this policy (Esterhold, Bellissaria and the Known World aren't exactly out of the door for Alphatia...) That's why I voiced my opinion that's it's highly impossible that Alphatia in Mystaros's world won't be having contacts with other continents and go mess things up there.

It's not just in my world that they do not have further exploration/influence, Marco. If you look at Canon sources, direct Alphatian political influence extends little beyond their current boundaries and the Known World.

Let's look at Canon sources of Alphatian exploration/conquest through 1000 AC:

4000 BC - Alphatians conquer the Cypri civilisation.

3500 BC - Alphatians explore and conquer nearby planets and explore the elemental planes. (DotE)

3000 BC - Alphatians become obsessed with philosophizing and magical mastery. They enter a 2000 year period of isolation and introspection.


(Yes, 2000 years during which they contemplate their navel and master the ways of magic. No colonization. No conquest. No exploration.)

1000 BC - Old Alphatia destroyed. Alphatian Followers of Air flee to Mystara, to the continent island now known as Alphatia. (DotE) "Soon after they arrived" - Magic-using Alphatians settle Bellisaria "to forge new kingdoms at a distance from the capital at Sundsvall." (DotE) "Settled in the centuries after Alphatian Landfall..." - Common Alphatians settle Ochalea to get away from the growing empire and those that use magic.


(Between 1000 and 500 BC, The Alphatian Empire consists of the island continent, and at some point during this time, it can be assumed, the "free lands" on Bellissaria and Ochalea are absorbed or conquered. Though I would personally put the absorption of Ochalea after the fall of Nithia, as that would have been in the Nithian "Sphere of Influence" west of the Isle of Dawn.)

500 BC - Alphatians move in and take over the Isle of Dawn after the destruction of the Nithian Empire. (DotE)

(Between 500 and 200 BC the Alphatians are busy absorbing the Isle of Dawn, the Alatians, and the Pearl Islands... possibly Ochalea, as well.)

200 BC - Alphatians conquer Esterhold. (DotE) 190 BC - Alphatia conquers Thyatis. (DotE)

(Note that there is no further expansion of any major sort after this time.

Alphatia seems to have reached its maximum extent, and, in the case of Thyatis, bitten off more than it can safely swallow.)

2 BC to 0 AC - Alphatia loses Thyatis, Ochalea, the Pearl Islands, and about half of the Isle of Dawn. (DotE)

("Over the next thousand years, the Thyatian/Alphatian borders crawled all over the [Isle of Dawn], but in general the two empires have controlled fairly equal territories.")

15 AC - Alphatians hire Norse to destroy the Thyatian colony at Alpha.


250 AC - Alphatians begin colonizing the northern Alasiyan desert. (GAZ 2, DotE)

250 AC - Alphatians found the colony of New Alphatia on Minroth Isle. (GAZ 9)

(Note that it seems that while the colonies in Ylaruam were at least "semi-official" to start with, if not directly founded at the behest of the Empire, the colony in Minrothad was independent, the result of non-Imperial Alphatians wanting to *get away* from the Empire, with no Imperial support,as their quick alliance with the native suggests. However, see below for more on the Alasiyan colonies.)

500 AC - Qeodhar *voluntarily* joins the Empire. (DotE) 728 AC - Alphatian colonies finally get upper hand in Alasiya. (GAZ 2, DotE) 786 to 828 AC - Halzunthram in Glantri; Alphatian forces eventually kicked out. (GAZ 3, DotE)

827 AC - Alphatian colonies in Ylaruam destroyed by Al-Kalim. (GAZ 2, DotE)

(Check this out... nations with a population the size of the Alphatian *capital city* (or even 1/2 the size, in the case of Ylaruam) kick the Empire *out*. Hmmm... either the Empire is a paper tiger or the colonial efforts were not at the behest of the Empire! Either way, this bodes not well for the theory that Alphatia is a great colonial power, let alone truly a powerful Empire.)

959 to 960 AC - Alphatia invades Thyatis at the behest of its insane emperor. (DotE)

(Note that Tylion could not get enough support from his Empire to conquer their greatest enemy... because he had *insulted* his subjects and made some political enemies! Even though they came within a *gladiator's hairsbreadth* of conquering the only other empire on the world of any note, the rest of the Empire didn't back him... out of pettiness and pique. And thus, they lost the war. So much for the grand Empire!)

964 AC - Prince Haldemar and the Princess Ark set out on a long, long journey to discover what the world is really like outside the Empire and the Known World, as nobody seems to really know! (VotPA) 985 AC - Empress Eriadna decides to claim Norwold, forms the kingdom of Alpha. (DotE)

992 AC - "Empress Eriadna of Alphatia accedes to her son Ericall's demands for a kingdom of his own. She gives him the city of Alpha in Norwold, the *empty title* of king of that nation, and a great degree of autonomy." (DotE) (Emphasis mine)

995 AC - Ericall grants governorship of Landfall to his half-brother, Lernal the Swill. (DotE)

So we have a 500 year period of growth after the Alphatians first arrive, mostly spurred not by the desire of the Empire to grow, but by the Common Alphatian desire to get away from the budding Empire! The Common Alphatians settle the new regions (some in areas obviously under Nithian control,) then over time the magical Empire comes along afterward and swallows them up.

Easy enough, when everywhere the Common Alphatians go are lands run by savages and stone age primitives. Then, once Nithia does its disappearing act, Alphatia moves in and takes over the regions that have been weakened by the loss of their history and culture... not much of a great conquest, eh?

Still, it takes them 300 years to absorb that. Then the best they can do is conquer more stone-age primitives in Esterhold, and take over a barbaric, piratical culture on the verge of the empire, the Thyatians. They try to swallow that for nearly 200 years, with no further expansion otherwise...

and fail! Not only do they fail, but they also lose the western third of their empire! After that, the few attempts at colonization and conquest are farcical and fallacious. Kicked out of the desert by barbarians... a people whom, if you took every last man, woman, and child, would not fill half the capital city of the Empire! The list goes on and on... the record speaks for itself.

Alphatia has reached its natural extent. Sure, an adventurer might wander out once in a while, strike out on his own, and try to conquer a kingdom.

There haven;t been any such *successful* efforts in more than a thousand years, though. Sure, if Greyhack becomes a reality, the Alphatians may have had something to do with the Suloise and Baklunish Empires, performed some trade, and continue to do so to this day in the Flanaess... but no conquest.

Get real! They can't even properly conquer the Yannivey Islands. They are an "Empire" in name only, really. Each kingdom does pretty much whatever it wants, even attacks the other kingdoms as the whims take them. But the glory days of "conquest" are long past (if, really, they ever existed as "glory days.") The whole Hollow World "Alphatium Neatharum" thing was a way to *get rid of* Alphatia, a set-up for the kiss-off, not a real attempt at conquest.

Heck, once they were there, they even *gave away* the territories, in some sort of politically correct desire to "rule through tradeand alliance, rather than military might." Doesn't sound terribly Imperious to me...

As for the Empire "thriving on Imperialism," well, the numbers (population and production wise) of the colonial areas show that the military costs involved to hold them and keep them from Thyatis do not pay for themselves!

The colonies are actually a drain on the empire; most production actually occurs on Alphatia or Bellissaria (which can hardly be considered a colony at this time by any means.) The entire population of the eastern Isle of Dawn territories was less than 300,000. 300,000! That produces a whopping surplus for 15,000 urbanites, according to Bruce Heard's dominion calculator. That's not enough for the local cities and towns, let alone enough to handle the necessary imperial garrisons or send anything back as "tribute." The Empire would have been better off abandoning the Isle of Dawn, if it weren't for the Thyatians being eager to conquer it and use it as a stepping stone to get some payback at the Empire...

And remember, this is all according the Canon resources. None of this is my own, for once... (^_^)

Now with the HackWurld of Mystaros, you will see each kingdom, the empire, and the Isle of Dawn live up to their potential...

Could you, perhaps, provide a few comments about any plans you have for the regions you haven't really delved into on the list yet? Maybe run through the Gazetteers, Creature Crucibles and Boxed Sets in order, and just skip the ones you've already covered in detail (like Ierendi, for example).

I'll give a general idea of things, but I don't want to give too much away...

Remember, everything will be as of 1000 AC. Though, some things will change from what was done before...

GAZ 1: Grand Duchy of Karameikos

The Grand Duchy is pretty much intact. What it has, it will have more of.

Howling wilderness with attitude. More ruins than you can shake a stick at.

The Traladara versus Thyatian versus Karameikan thing will be more attenuated. The "Gangs of Specularum" will be a bigger factor. [And note: I did say "Specularum."] Oh, did I mention Darine gypsies?

GAZ 2: Emirates of Ylaruam

The Preceptor versus Kin thing will be big. BIG. The desert will be nastier.

No more "Great Salt Basin." Can you say "Sea of Fire"? Yes, I knew you could... Oh, and more Nithian mummies and genies than you can shake a stick at.

GAZ 3: Principalities of Glantri

Glantri isn't actually going to change that much. The only real difference here is that the culture regions will be more defined. Okay, maybe it will get even weirder... Oh, and the bureaucracy... that'll be interesting. Even "More So," if you get my drift. Plus the GSoM will be, um... bigger. In more ways than one.

GAZ 4: Kingdom of Ierendi

Y'all have seen my basic plans for this region. Yo ho ho...

GAZ 5: Elves of Alfheim

What happens with the Elves is secret. Sorry. (^_^)

GAZ 6: Dwarves of Rockhome

Let's just say that the Dwarves get a bit of an attitude. And a reason for it. Oh, and there are more differences between the clans.

GAZ 7: The Northern Reaches

Blarg! Berserkers and Barbarians galore! And trolls. LOTS of trolls.

GAZ 8: The Five Shires

Mwahahahaha! Mwahahahaha! That's all I'm going to say...

GAZ 9: The Minrothad Guilds

Take Venice, Pisa, and Genoa. Add the Phoenicians. Throw in the Sopranos.

Plus the Teamsters and Jimmy Hoffa. There, that's about right.

GAZ 10: The Orcs of Thar

Take the Broken Lands as they are. Add a dash of Sauron. Stir.

GAZ 11: The Republic of Darokin

Take the Minrothad Guilds, lose the boats, add caravans. Add the movie "Plunkett & Macleane" (if you haven't seen it, you must! You must!) Plus a dash of Oliver Twist. Oh, and the "British Raj" in the west.

GAZ 12: Golden Khan of Ethengar

Blarg! More Mongolian than Mongolian. I mean, REALLY, as in "If you do not surrender, we kill everything in the city. Men. Women. Children. Horses.

Cats. Dogs. Houseplants. Then we get angry."

GAZ 13: Shadow Elves

The Shadow Elves will actually be shunted off a bit, as it is not a "mainstream" part of the setting. Their history will be cleared up a bit (okay, a LOT). And then there will be more of them. 'Taint saying how just yet... (^_^)

GAZ 14: Atruaghin Clans

These guys will be fixed. You've seen a taste of this...

GAZ 15: Heldannic Knights (Or rather, as it bloody well should have been) The Heldannic Knights will show a definitive "break" from the Hattian Knights, culturally and faith-wise. They won't be as much of a world power as they were in the Princess Arc story line, but they will still be a continental power.

GAZ 16: Kingdom of Wendar

This one is a secret. Going to fully-define and flesh this one out.

Dawn of the Emperors: Empire of Thyatis Thyatis will be even more Byzantine. Hattias will be nastier and scarier, if that's possible. Kerendas will finally get a definitive culture.

Dawn of the Emperors: Empire of Alphatia Alphatia will, of course, still be there. As I mentioned to DM earlier, though, you will get to see why there are all sorts of big walls and fortesses all over the continent.

Dawn of the Emperors: Isle of Dawn

Check out my stuff on the Isle of Dawn at the Vaults. You will get a general idea of what is going to happen there. It will not be this great wilderness; there will be cultures there. There will be history there. However, it will still have room to "expand," for reasons I will not go into yet. To give you the basic rundown on cultures and regions:

Region = Native Culture [RW/Fantasy Equivalent] Dunadale = Dunael [Celts/Dunedain] = Yup, noble wandering rangers looking to kick ass. No kilts.

Helskir & Westrourke = Helska [British Saxons] = Think Saxons after the invasion of the Danes.

Westrourke = Ostlander Colonies [Norse Viking] = Think Danelaw.

Redstone = Aran [Irish] = Take the movie "Darby O'Gill and the Little People." Leprechauns, only man-sized.

East/West Portage = Various mixed, native and foreign. = Think Lankhmar. The cities exist for their own sake. And they are ugly...

Lands North of Kendach, scattered here and there = Daumancer [Normans] = Take the Pure Alphatians. Add Hattians. Add noble bloodlines from most cultures of the continent. Add in a lot of attitude. Usually with the power to back it up.

Shadow Coast North = Ispans [Spanish] = You know 'em, you love 'em. This is where they came from. Check out my history on the Vaults.

Shadow Coast = Amancerians [Medieval Italians] = Take "Romeo and Juliet." Remove the romance and the pretty words. Add magic.

Shadow Coast South & Interior = Caerda [Scots-Irish Vikings] = Blarg with kilts! "Keel the wimmen an' rrravish the laif-stoock, lads! Och, nae, wait, that's noot rrright..."

Ekto & Trikelios = Alatians [Medieval Greeks] = Think Milenians culturally evolved over a thousand years, and mixed with Thothians, Makai, and Alphatians.

Thothia = Thothians [Classical Egyptians] = You know them well. However, the Way of the Spider won't be the only mystical philosophy...

Great Escarpment = TOP SECRET

Dawn of the Emperors: Alatian Islands

Given a full-cultural development, though modern time frame little changes.

As you may have noted above, "Alatian" is now a cultural type.

Dawn of the Emperors: Bellissaria

Given a full-cultural development. Bellissaria was not unoccupied when disco vered by the Alphatians...

Dawn of the Emperors: Ochalea

This will still be Chinese style culture, however... nah. I'm keeping this one secret too...

Dawn of the Emperors: Nuar

Take the Nuari as they are. Add a dash of Thothian. Add a dash of Southern Islands native from Conan stories. Add a bit of Shaka Zulu. Mix thoroughly.

Dawn of the Emperors: Norwold

Little changed. However, Denagoth, Landfall, and a bit north of that will be part of the HackWurld. The native barbarian cultures will be better defined.

Champions of Mystara: Sind

It will be there, though not in detail. Not saying any more at this time.

Champions of Mystara: Yavdlom

It will be there, though not in detail. Changed in several ways.

Great Hule

Hell yes! But, due to space considerations, not in any detail. If the book does well, maybe I can convince them to do a Hule setting.

Savage Coast

Yes. (^_^)

Empire of Dorfin

Mwahahahaha! Mwahahahahaha!

Davania, Skothar, other bits

Secret at this time.

Tall Tales of the Wee Folk, Top Ballista, The Sea People, and Night Howlers The Sidhe and other Faeries, Serraine, Twaelar, lycanthropes, etc. will be mentioned in passing, especially in their proper historical contexts, but not developed... no room.

That's about all I'm going to say right now. I know that's not a lot, but I do want some surprises here, folks.

We are still working on what will be shown in the previews in KoDT. There WILL be previews, possibly as soon as April or May. Possibly some web previews, as well. Maybe an exclusive preview on the Vaults, if I can push them for it... no promises there.

(Editorial note: that ended the string of questioning and answering that lasted from the initial announcement in February through March 2003)

From the MML, May 2003:

Latest on Hackwurld of Mystaros

Here is the product announcement, which went up on the Kenzer boards a while back. I'm only just coming up for air now... still hard at work. (^_^)

KEN 2119 HM Hackwurld of Mystaros $29.99

The HackWurld of Mystaros is the premiere campaign setting for the HackMaster role-playing game system, based on the original Dungeons & Dragons setting of Mystara. This 256-page tome contains everything a Game Master needs to run a HackWurld campaign, including details on history, geography, cities, armies, politics, nations, races, cultures, monsters, religions, and adventure possibilities. Includes a highly-detailed 2'x3' full-color map of the central HackWurld nations.

Apparently it won't be a hardback, at least this announcement doesn't say anything about it. It's just freaking huge. There should be some support articles in upcoming issues of KoDT... still haven't nailed down which ones yet. Hope to know soon!

June 2003, MML:

Hello Everyone!

Just dropping a little note... the new Gawds & Demi-Gawds book for HackMaster includes a two-page section on the gawds of the HackWurld. This is just a taste, mind you, and includes the two "home-grown" native divinities of the HackWurld that are of the "gawd" type of divinity, as opposed to those that are of the "HackLord" type, which is the HackWurld of Mystaros equivalent of the Immortals of Mystara (sort of...)

Details on the HackLords, as well as how the various peoples deal with "Odin the Gawd" versus "Odin the HackLord" will be available in the Guide to the HackWurld of Mystaros.

Q: When is Hackmaster due to be done? Will it be ready for GenCon? I might show up there and pick up a copy..

A: It's an August release, and I am still hoping to have it done in time for that, but it has been slow going. I've calculated loosely that there are more than 2,000,000 words written about Mystara, and I have to distill it down to about 200,000 or so, and still have it be an effective, complete introduction to the setting.

Unfortunately, Gen Con is a month earlier than normal this year (July instead of August), so there is no way it would have made it to the show anyway. There might be some blue sheets to look at, though, but that is up to the guys at Kenzer.

August 2003, from the Kenzer forums:

Help needed: Mystaros freelancer cannot complete! :


> To all those interested in Mystaros, our esteemed freelancer has had real

> life rear its ugly head and he was forced to admit defeat and bail from the

> project. So, we're looking for someone to pick up the torch and carry it

> forth. We'd prefer an experienced writer. Please contact [log in to unmask]

> if you're interested.


> David_S_Kenzer

> KenzerCo Staff

(Editorial note: in August 2003, it was noted that Kenzer website had moved the release date to October. Bruce Heard and Aaron Allston were emailed by one of the MML members to see if either was interested in completing the HackWurld. At least two MML members inquired about completing the work themselves, to no avail. In October 2003, a MML poster stated: "I was on the Hackmaster website today, buried at the bottom of the 'upcoming' products page was a note that Hackwurld would be delayed until 06/04.")

In April 2004, James released this update on the MMB:

Hello all,

I am once again on the HackWurld of Mystaros project for Kenzer & Company. For those who do not know of it, the HackWurld of Mystaros is the "Hacked" version of the Known World of Mystara for the HackMaster role-playing game. I began work on this last year, and then a lot of personal issues intervened. But that is all over now. I am once again fully employed, yet am able to pick up the HackWurld again on a freelance basis. Once I am settled in at my new location I will concentrate all my free energies on getting the HackWurld completed.

You will note that the HackWurld is not on Kenzer & Company's schedule. This is because they and I do not want to disappoint anyone by missing a deadline; between this being developed as a freelance project and the necessities of working with a licensed project, schedules can all too easily go to hell. Thus a release date for the project will not be announced until Kenzer & Company has a near 100% certainty of that date (with some damn good modifiers in their favor, to boot).

As to the project itself, the book has gone from a 256-page "everything you needed to know about the whole setting" monster to what is essentially a 96-page "Gamemaster's Guide to the HackWurld Proper". It will contain all the basics a GM needs to run a campaign in the core region (the "Known World" area of the original map), and also have enough information on the different cultures of humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes, and humanoids to enable a player to play a distinctively "HackWurld" character. From Belcadiz Elf to Dymrak Goblin, Thyatian Legionaire to Atruaghin Barbarian, enough detail will be included to make your character definitively HackWurld in nature.

It will be up to you fellow Mystaraphiles, HackMaster Fans, and others interested in adventure game settings, and your combined purchasing power to determine whether further supplements will be released, such as one covering Sind and the Great Waste, or the Alphatian Empire, or Hule and the Savage Coast. So I am doing my best to make sure that that this book will appeal to those who already love Mystara, those who already love HackMaster, and those who simply are looking for a kick-ass fantasy game setting. A tall order, indeed. I will update developments as development warrants.

December 2005, from the Dragonsfoot forums:

Yeah, as someone else posted, Real Life has usually been the problem with working on HackWurld... it's those 60-hour a week jobs that puts the kibosh on getting work done that's the problem, really.

It wouldn't be all that bad, except that my day job is writing about comics and games. Thus, the rare times I get to sit down and relax
rare enough as it is
I usually try to veg and free my mind far, far away from the computer. Even if I do approach the one at home, it's mostly to check on e-mail, chat with friends, or cruise and make the odd post on forums. Once in a while, I get the bug to work on it, and then I'm in trouble, as the next time I look up from my computer I realize that there's light streaming through the windows and I have to be at work in a half-hour...

Thus, the current status on the project is jumbled, at best. I've gone through a couple of designs, due to the feedback received on the Garweeze Wurld Atlas and other HackMaster products. The main complaint on the GWA (other than the fact that it was only available as a PDF) was that there was a lack of depth and detail... and unfortunately, that was essentially the same pattern that the HackWurld product was going to take, an atlas covering the entirety of the region that would be derived from the Mystara setting (i.e., all of it, Brun, Davania, and Skothar) such as made the transition to the HackWurld, plus some notes on the gawds, cultures, and history, plus some rules for generating player characters. With all that crammed in, even with a 256-page book, the level of detail would have been slight. Remember, there exists more than 2,000 pages of information on just the Known World alone, not counting all the other regions of the world. So an entire Gazetteer of information would have had to have been crammed into 5 to 10 pages, at best...

I tried experimenting with different iterations of that format, by narrowing down to just the HackWurld Proper (i.e., the area on the original map, with other regions mentioend only in passing), to getting rid of player material and gawds and such and expanding the information on countries, and various other iterations. None of them worked, as each was out of balance. Remember, we cannot count on HackMaster fans having all the old Gazetteers and other information to fall back on
the first book has to have enough to run a campaign, or there won't be enough sold for there to be a second book (and the first would flop, anyway).

So that format went entirely to the wayside, as I couldn't find the right balance. This led to a second design, that of the HackMaster Adventure Zone, or HAZ (as a play on the old GAZ listing). This would consist of two books at the start, a brief and relatively cheap Gazetteer, classic Greyhawk style, to give everyone a basic grounding in the overall setting, followed by an in-depth HackMaster version of the Archduchy of Karameikos (yeah, Archduchy, as the HackWurld products are re-set to 1001 AC). That design was the one I worked on for some time, until it became apparent from fans that the last thing people wanted at the start was yet another reworking of Karameikos... the stink of the old TSR boxed set had not faded yet.

So, the third grand incarnation of the design, which is what I'm working on now, focuses on the needs of HackMaster players rather than GM's. Kind of like what you see with the The Adventurer's Guide to Pixie Faeries. In fact, my working title for it now is The Adventurer's Guide to the HackWurld of Mystaros. This will provide not only complete information on creating HackMaster characters in the HackWurld, but will also have a "Player's Overview" of the HackWurld that should provide GM's with enough information to get a start on a campaign. This guide will include all the major cultures, races, classes, skills, talents, character priors, spells, and so forth, as needed to generate a character that would start play from the HackWurld Proper (i.e., the countries detailed in the original Gazetteers, plus Heldann, Wendar, Sind, and the Thyatian Colonies), plus the information that players would know about the various countries of the HackWurld Proper, and a brief overview of the rest of the world (as in the HackWurld portion of Aldrazar). This, I think, is what will spur players into wanting to play in the HackWurld, and make the product successful enough to warrant the development of a HAZ line, which I envision will push the boxed sets firmly from people's minds, and make the old Gazetteers seriously obsolete...

December 2005, from the Kenzer forums:

Great, is there any chance whatsoever of this coming out in 2006 ? or is next year going to be another bust ?

JM: This is The Big Monkey on My Back. It haunts me at work (where I spend the vast majority of my time). It haunts me at home. It haunts my sleep (and believe me, there's little scarier than Jolly haunting your nightmares man).

"Jaaaaames... Jaaaaames... you left me on Davania, Jaaaames..."

"Jolly? 'zat you, man? What's with the Vulcan ears, dude?"

"Never mind that. Yes it's me, you fricken' loser. Where's my HackWurld!"

"Oh man, Jolly, I'm so sorry, ya see I... I... I ran out of pixels in my keyboard. I... I... my mouse blew a fuse. I didn't have enough money for computer disks. I loaned my HackMaster Player's Handbook to a friend, and he never gave it back. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!"

"No excuses, man!"

"But Jolly, you know how it is!"

"Dammit man, I'm a game designer, not a... oh, wait, right..."

"Yeah, where's that Grevan article you always promised?"

"You... you... just shut up, dammit! This is your nightmare, not mine!"

"Are you sure about that, Jolly? Are you sure this isn't... your nightmare?"

"Dude... you suck. You just suck... I'm gonna go get Steve and have him beat you up!"

And so it goes...

But seriously, every time someone mentions it, it's like a torch to the crotch...

So the sooner I get it done, the better. The only reason I even said anything about it was that it looks like finally, things might be clearing up at work, and I might get back to a sane work level... which means I'll have the time and energy to work on this on a regular basis.

And then I can get the monkey off my back, and get to work on the other howling primates that are jumping around up there, jockeying for position... HackWurld is the first in a line of projects that have been flinging feces at me over the last two years.

(Editorial note: Kenzer's parody of the Greyhawk setting was rejected by WotC, and it looked like WotC would not co-operate with any further world adaptations for Hackmaster. Thus ends the history of a valiant attempt to bring (a version of) Mystara into print.)

JM: ::Sigh::

I shouldn't have read that. Now I need to go out and get stinking drunk...

Aww...I didn't mean it like that James. Really! I sincerely admire your attempt to bring Mystara back in any form. I know what it's like to feel overwhelmed, believe me. The main reason I want to document your HackWurld comments is that I feel they are an incisive critique of Mystara - that many of the issues you bring up, and fixes you suggest, may be relevant to any future iterations of the setting - and I felt that your comments would make most sense if I showed them in context of the surrounding events. I didn't intend to open an old wound, and I'm truly sorry that you feel sad about it. Believe me, I wouldn't have spent hours compiling this just to hurt your feelings . In my opinion you are one of the most creative and devoted Mystaraphiles on the planet.

JM: I know you didn't mean it like that, and I really do appreciate that you have put it all together like this... I was just upset at, well, at "what could have been." Rarely a day goes by when I don't think about what might have been with the HackWurld, especially lately, as I'm working on the Wilderlands products for my own company. I'll be plotting out a product, and the thought would come to mind about how cool it would be to be doing this with Mystara, too...

I just don't understand why Hasbro is so tight with these lines that they obviously no longer give a damn about. HackMaster was never any real competition for D&D 3.5... why they screwed them over on approvals, and thus killed any chances of any new hacked products (not just GreyHack and HackWurld), I'll never know...