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Thoughts About the Karameikos Civil War

by Hausman Santos with contributions from Giampaolo Agosta from Threshold Magazine issue 22

A Guideline for the Mystaran Almanac 1020 AC development

Author’s Introduction

This article provides an update to the Karameikos setting, primarily a plotline collecting the exchange of information that was discussed between myself (Hausman) and Giampaolo, as part of the work for a follow-up to the Mystaran Almanac1. It provides a guideline for the events that will take place in the civil war in Karameikos according to the course of the Almanac 1020AC - in view of the events of the Orcwars devastating Darokin.

The article will serve as the driver for a future release of Mystaran Almanac 1020. It attempts to cover that vacuum, and provide a possible completion to the plotline itself.

Background: the legacy of Aaron Allston and the Poor Wizard’s Almanacs

Allston’s contribution to Mystara is undeniable. GAZ1: “The Grand Duchy of Karameikos” is its strong point and was followed with more great products like “Rules Cyclopedia”, and “Wrath of the Immortals”, which shaped the Known World and beyond.

The setting updates started with the “Poor Wizard´s Almanac I” (1992), where a full year on Mystara can be enjoyed by fans and played in a world-wide campaign (all events and information of the year were there) immediately following the events after the Great War.

The brilliant contribution of Ann Dupuis (and Paul) is undeniable in the creative way of guiding the sequence of the Almanacs (AC1011-AC1013) assembled in a structure that naturally flowed through the unfolding of the phases of the scenarios, and this has been the same basis that the “fanon” Mystaran Almanac has followed in style to follow the events and changes in the scene (initially by Herve, Geoff and the Old Almanac Team2). Even today, when we think of the future editions for the Almanacs, we still have in mind Allston’s premise, following the standards of how he establishes his style to develop his plots.

AC 1019 : Karameikos in Review

Designing Mystaran Almanac 1020 AC

A Civil War in Karameikos was always suggested both in the original Gazetteer and in its follow-up, “Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure”. However, it never took place in the Almanacs timeline. It is interesting to recall here the previous work on the Civil War conflict in Karameikos. The “World in Flames” timeline by Bruce Heard describes events as the friction between Traladarans and Thyatians increases and the internal conflicts arise across the nation. Steven Wilson proposed the adaption of the D&D 3e adventure module ”Red Hand of Doom” to a Mystaran Civil War, including events that could lead to the death of King Stefan, such as the battle of Kelvin. A further revision of Steven’s work is Giampaolo’s version of The Dymrak Dread, which rewrites the “Red Hand of Doom” sections in a way that is more compatible with Karameikos.

The Mystaran Almanac 1020 AC follows a more gradual and less radical approach, following in the footsteps of the previous almanacs, but does not ignore the devastating effects that a Civil War can have, leading to major changes in Karameikos. The main events for AC 1019 in Karameikos, as well as those in other regions need to be taken into account, of course, such as the Orcwars, which can lead to the isolation of Karameikos and therefore facilitate a Civil War scenario.

The Civil War

The civil war is, essentially, along the ethnic divide of Traladarans vs Thyatians -- but really explodes as a political conflict between the various factions of nobles. While Boris Torenescu may try his own rebellion, he is unlikely to succeed, as few Traladaran nobles will rally to his banner -- those who are far from Specularum do not even have time to take sides, as Boris’ forces are likely easily defeated by the Guard and the Knights of the Griffon. Obviously this gives Desmond Kelvin (and, behind the scenes, Alfric Oderbry) a lot of leverage against the elderly Sherlane Halaran, who can be easily presented as a weak patriarch, who would have left the King without support against the rebellious Traladarans. Even Sherlane’s friendship with Patriarch Nikelnevitch of the Church of Traladara can be easily played against him by Oderbry. At this point Sherlane is quite old, and Alfric might have an easier time, especially if now he is in league with Desmond Kelvin.

The role of the Church of Karameikos

Jowett is already out of the patriarchy (after all, he should already be 90 years old!) in 1020 AC. According to the Mystaran Almanac, in Vatermont 16, AC 1017 the old patriarch retires:

City of Mirros, Kingdom of Karameikos. OW3
“A special congregation of the Church of Karameikos is called. In a surprising move, Oliver Jowett, patriarch of the church, announces his retirement. He names his successor as Sherlane Halaran, Baron of Threshold. The ceremony is solemn and respectful. When it is over, however, a suspiciously quiet Alfric Oderbry is the first to leave, followed by a file of members of the Order of the Griffon.”
“Jowett sees trouble on the horizon, for his church and for Karameikos. The aging patriarch knew that his failing health would not be strong enough to help weather the church, so he has passed the reins on to someone else. He had Halaran travel secretly from Threshold for this occasion, so as not to tip off Oderbry, whom he suspected might react badly.”
“Sherlane Halaran will step down from his baronial duties; his niece, Aleena Yurevich, will be confirmed as the new baroness in his stead by King Stefan.”

In AC1020, as suggested in the Gazetteer Companion-level adventure “Holy War"4, Olliver Jowett dies. Even though he is no longer the Patriarch, his influence is still felt and his death may weaken Sherlane’s position. The “Holy War” adventure does not take place until the time of “Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure”, but Oderbry remains a looming threat there5. In the Mystaran Almanac timeline, however, Alfric is ousted before he can actually rebel. Indeed, Oderbry is ousted from his post at the church in Yarthmont 26, AC 1017:

City of Mirros, Kingdom of Karameikos. OW6
“A crowd gathers in the court of the king to watch as the sentencing of Alfric Oderbry and his lieutenants begins. They are brought before King Stefan and Patriarch Halaran. In a solemn display, Halaran officially excommunicates Oderbry and his men from the Church of Karameikos. The crowd watches in stunned silence. King Stefan then sentences the men to make reparations for the damages they've done - their properties will be seized - and imprisonment. An outraged Oderbry supporter boo loudly, and soon the crowd sets to catcalls and shouting imprecations at one another. The city guard and King Stefan silence the crowd long enough to usher Oderbry and his men out of the room.”

However, Oderbry may still plot behind the scenes, seeking allies such as Desmond Kelvin, the old Thyatian families and even the Thyatian ambassador Cornel Osteric to support his reinstatement to the position of patriarch. Kelvin is loyal to the king, but also out for himself, and his resentment towards the royal family grows daily, so he may be interested in supporting Alfric.

If the friction develops to the point where Stefan’s position favoured the Traladarans, the King could gain the open support of the Church of Traladara (even though the traditional Traladaran families would not approve of it) as well as the Halaran faction in the Church of Karameikos. As to the Cult of Halav, they must have at this point lost a lot of steam. It is not terribly reasonable to have them worship Stefan for 20 years as a reincarnated Halav.

The role of Desmond Kelvin

Count Desmond Kelvin II is basically the next Ludwig. In AC 1020, he is over 50, with no heir except his sister and her husband, and plenty of grudges against Adriana and the King.

Topic of the Month: Verdict for the Black Eagle7
"Desmond Kelvin II, Count of Kelvin, juror. Count Kelvin is an angry man who believes that he is disliked by a royal family that systematically relegated him to second roles, whereas he feels he deserved a more prominent place among the powers of Karameikos: he was kept at bay in the city of Kelvin, away from Mirros; Adriana would not marry him; his advice to the king was largely ignored; he was elevated to count an outrageously long time after Vorloi and Halaran. Thus, while he does not much care about the king's cousin's fate although he thought his arguments made sense and even caught himself wondering if he would have been appreciated to his true value had Ludwig von Hendricks been on his cousin's throne he took great pleasure at the barbs the Black Eagle directed at the king. He thinks the king should hand over more power to the nobility, and so he voted against the king in order to weaken him, a step to hopefully bring much-needed change to the kingdom."

The role of foreign powers: Nayce8 and Thyatis

After the disastrous events involving the Alphatians in Mirros and Krakatos (1019), Nayce diplomats question King Stefan for the acts committed, as Karameikos has previously very good relations with the other nations of the Nayce. The Nayce is relatively distant, and Cornel Osteric may be effective in offering support from the much nearer Empire of Thyatis -- not to mention that Thyatian nobles must resent the Alphatian interference. Osteric is fully intent on supporting Karameikan elements hostile to the Nayce (and will try to persuade Stefan to return to his original alliance with Thyatis, offering political support against Nayce), as he fell out of favor in Thyatis for losing Karameikos to the Alphatians, and this crisis is his opportunity to reverse his fortunes9.

A foreign power might have staged an assassination attempt against Stefan - which would further increase the tension during a period of civil, military, religious and diplomatic conflict.

The role of the Traladarans

This part of the plot is supported mostly by the intrigues within the three Traladaran families -- Torenescu, Marilenev and Radu. The Torenescu are divided among themselves, with the legitimate heir, Aleksander, chafing under the tutelage of his uncle Boris, whom he hates as much as he hates the Thyatians. At some point, Boris finally manages to murder Aleksander, and aligns the family more closely to the positions of Magda Marilenev, according to the plotlines in “Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure”. This will lead at some point to a new rebellion, which will be crushed by the Thyatian establishment10.

The Orcwars

The last element to take into account is the Orcwars. The Orcwars timeline should be aligned with that of the war in Karameikos. At that point, the “Dymrak Dread” becomes just one arm of a larger goblinoid threat, possibly masterminded by a nation interested in weakening the Known World, such as Hule11. Accordingly to the Darokin Orcwars plotline, Tlatepetl allied with the Shadow Hand and some Thyatian merchants (enemies of House Mauntea). Together, they are arranging and training the goblinoids for a campaign against Darokin - particularly Selenica (the Cruth Mountains goblinoids were also invited to join). Further parties that may be involved include the Iron Ring and Hulean agents willing to sow chaos in the Known World.

Concerning the Almanac Orcwars, the following plotline is proposed:

The Orcwars plotline will likely extend into AC 1021, but by AC 1020, Karameikos will probably be cut off from its foreign allies by goblinoid attacks, which will magnify the impact of the Civil War. Goblinoids attack and loot communities north of Threshold and south of Reedle along the King’s Road. Mountain units of the Karameikos Army are dispatched to the northern border. At the same time, open confrontations take place between goblins of the Dymrak forest and Callari and Vyalia elves.

The goblinoid attack plays into the Civil War as an independent thread. It just happens at a time when the government is divided and the army is tied down following up on Boris' plot. The goblinoid incursions threaten Kelvin. So, Count Kelvin will appear as the saviour of Karameikos, especially if one or more members of the royal family die in battle.

Alternative Plotlines

Beyond the plotline of the Mystaran Almanac AC 1020, some alternative lines may be followed.

If you want a larger civil conflict, then Adriana and her family die in the war, and soon after Stefan dies of old age. Justin should be the heir, but the Queen favors Valen. Desmond plays the two brothers against each other, hoping to weaken the winner and take over soon after. Killing off Adriana in battle and have her children disappeared or dead makes it easier to explain a conflict. Otherwise, she is just too popular and capable compared to her brothers.

Of course, for a more dramatic change in the campaign, Steven Wilson’s Red Hand of Doom and Mystaran Civil War and/or Bruce Heard´s World in Flames plotlines can be followed in stead of the Mystaran Almanac one.


1Actually, the Almanac Team in Work are: Wendar/Denagoth (Marco Dalmonte and Simone Neri contribution);Ylaruam (Suggested from Andrew Theisen - ideas to Wastoure & Barimoor); Yazak Steppes/Hool Great Migration (Originally from Andrew Theisen, Opinions from Giampaolo, developed by Hausman and Atila Pires); Karameikos (Giampaolo Agosta); Davania/ Heldannics on Davania (Thibault Sarlat); Davania/Schweidnitz (“Sturm” - Francesco Defferrari); Heldannic Territories/ Heldanic War (Geoff Gander);Thyatis (Giulio Caroletti); Savage Coast /Orc’s Head Peninsula/Yalu Bay (Atila Pires, contribution from Giampaolo); Aengmor/Alfheim (Hausman Santos);Glantri/Darokin (Micky); Rockhome/Ethengar/Norwold (Hausman Santos); Nayce (Hervé Musseau/additional entry by Hausman); Nimmur (Hausman Santos); Hollow World (Atila Pires, Hausman Santos, Alexandre de Luna).

2Initially created by Herve Musseau and later led by Geoff Gander and continued by Hausman Santos in the current MA 1020AC development (jointly with the Old and New Almanac Team). Hausman is heading up production and editing for new almanacs. See the project thread -“Mystaran Almanac 1020 AC? ” from The Piazza Forums .

3Mystaran Almanac AC 1017

4Aaron Allston, “The Grand Duchy of Karameikos”, GAZ1, TSR

5You can read more thoughts about Oderbry in “Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure”, page 70 - TSR

6Mystaran Almanac AC 1017

7See Mystaran Almanac 1019 AC,

8Nayce is the New Alphatian Empire founded in 1,013 AC after the sinking of Alphatia according to the Joshuan Almanac and later renamed NACE, New Alphatian Confederated Empire in 1,014 AC or Nayce, as spelled Nayce by Minrothaddans, (see also in the fan almanacs timeline, see a complete description int the Vaults

9About Osteric in K: KoA Page 92:

His duty is to maintain pressure on the king to grant Thyatis superior trade terms over Ierendi and Minrothad, and to keep an eye on events in the kingdom and regularly report them to the emperor of Thyatis. (...) Stefan declared independence for Karameikos, and Osteric was ordered to arrange an assassination of the new king. This he did, grudgingly, but the plan came to naught due to the interference of some adventurers. Osteric sufficiently covered his tracks, but he was held responsible for “losing Karameikos” back in Thyatis City.”

10(K: KoA- Page 75) - “Aleksander has two enemies: his uncle and Thyatians in general. He is aware of the lessons of the Marilenev Rebellion, which nearly destroyed the power of that once-great family. He is also aware that Uncle Boris keeps the fires of anti-Thyatian feeling burning hot in Torenescu hearts.”

Boris seeks support with Magda Marilenev (K: KoA- Page 76: - “Boris is set up as a bad guy, a plotter who wants to grab his share of power within the family – namely, all of it. Boris’s agents tend to be old, hard-line Traladarans, and if Boris were to succeed in supplanting Aleksander, another Marilenev Rebellion would be inevitable -with similar results.”)

11See “Orc Wars” by micky