Atlas   Rules   Resources   Adventures   Stories       FAQ   Search   Links

Mystara 3E - Teaser & Introduction

by Roger LV Girtman II

Source: The teaser is from The Black Vessel novel by Morris Simon. It is the best teaser for Mystara I've ever run across... Unfortunately, this is something we absolutely CANNOT use... plagiarism issues and all, so if anyone can writing something just as good, I'm open to suggestions.

Sprawling across the boundaries of the Known World, like a great, serpentine dragon, lies the bustling, ever-startling world of MYSTARATM, a land where the only constant is change.
MYSTARA has managed to survive through three disasters of cataclysmic proportions. The first such disaster, the Great Rain of Fire, came about some four millennia ago. It was then that the ancient Blackmoor, master of magic and technology, loosed their powerful weapons on the land in an Armageddon that forever changed the face of the world.
Although the people of BLACKMOORTM failed to survive this self-inflicted calamity, they were nevertheless players in the second major disaster some thirteen hundred years later, when unsuspecting elves unwittingly detonated a powerful artifact left behind by the men of BLACKMOOR. The resulting explosion not only wiped out whole races but also brought about a change in climate that spawned a new ice age.
In more modern times, vengeful gods and goddesses brought about a series of cataclysmic events known as the Wrath of the Immortals. A great meteorite struck the land, an entire continent sank beneath the ocean, and a deadly plague began to spread.
MYSTARA is a world of constant surprises. Where else would you expect to find a flying city, a magical mountain, a floating continent, and invisible moon complete with inhabitants, and entire region of the world with its population held under the sinister, body-altering influence of a mysterious magical substance? What other land possesses and entire separate world inside its hollow core, with neither the world's population aware of the existence of the other?
In MYSTARA, you'll discover brave adventurers, powerful mages, evil villains, majestic dragons, lurking monsters. An entire civilisation that has survived underground for hundreds of years, a nation of halflings, an island kingdom of pirates. Immortals who dabble in the affairs of mere mortals for their own amusement. An entire race that has migrated to MYSTARA from another world.
Fire and air magic...
A blighted, magically enchanted forest...
A sunken continent...
It's all here, and much, much more, when you dare to visit the magical world of MYSTARA!

Source: The introduction (including the next few posts) is slightly modified from Jenni's old M3e site. I have NOT been able to contact her yet for permission to use it. If anyone is in contact with her and can relay a request, I'd be much obliged--otherwise it's just acting as a place-saver for now.

So you're new to the MYSTARA campaign settings... or at least you think you are. If you've come to D&D® fairly recently, perhaps with the release of the 3rd Edition rules or maybe even during the 1990's, MYSTARA quite probably is a whole new realm for you and your gaming buddies to explore. However, if you're an old-time D&D player but don't think you've ever encountered MYSTARA before; you may be surprised by some of the information that follows.
Here you'll find a brief overview of the origin of MYSTARA and a discussion of the things that really define the campaign and give it the flavour and atmosphere we love and hope you'll enjoy too.
Long time gamers may already recognise MYSTARA by a different name: the Known World. This was the campaign setting created and developed by TSR, Inc. for its original DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® line, often referred to as BD&D (for "Basic"), OD&D (for "original," or "old") or, more recently, as 0e D&D (for "zero edition"). Developed to an incredible level of detail through TSR's publication of 20+ regional campaign accessories, MYSTARA would eventually include three complete campaign settings, all located on the same planet yet having certain elements that made each distinct in its own right. These three settings are known as the Known World, SAVAGE COASTTM, and the HOLLOW WORLDTM.
Collectively, and in the humble opinion of the fans, MYSTARA consists simply of the most well developed, world-spanning fantasy campaign settings that TSR ever produced. Unfortunately, the MYSTARA line was cancelled in the mid 1990's, just shortly after TSR dropped the 0e D&D line and made a failed attempt to convert it into Advanced D&D® 2nd Edition rules. Even with this abandonment by its originators, MYSTARA has always maintained a strong presence in the online community. Many fans have spent copious amounts of spare time dedicated to continuing the development of completely new material as well as deliberate expansions on original source material. As a result, MYSTARA has remained alive and well to this day.
If you are interested in investigating this great wealth of fan developed material, the place to go is the VAULTS OF PANDIUS, which has the stamp of approval as the "Official MYSTARA Website" from Wizards of the Coast®.

Defining MYSTARA
MYSTARA is a high-magic, high-fantasy, high-adventure world; not unlike Wizards of the Coast's officially supported settings. So, one might ask, why bother with MYSTARA when these other, official settings are available? Well, while MYSTARA may have its roots in fantastic magical adventure, it portrays this theme in its own exciting and unique ways.
A good campaign setting, as every role-player worth his or her salt knows, has a unique style and theme to it. Pause a moment and think about a few different campaign settings. Each setting has an aura or "flavour" to it, which is what makes it stand out, worthy in its own right.
So what makes MYSTARA different from other "high magic, high fantasy, high adventure worlds", and what sort of adventure can you expect to find there?

Diverse Culture
MYSTARA comprises a richly detailed tapestry of cultures that exist side-by-side. Want to play a traditional knight in shining armour in a feudal pseudo-European setting? Fancy trying your hand at a Viking berserker or a Roman gladiator? Perhaps you'd prefer to be a renaissance swashbuckler, a horse-warrior Mongol from the arid steppes, or a Native American shaman? Or perhaps you're fond of the culture of China, or India, or Egypt?
In MYSTARA, there's somewhere with something for everyone, no matter what their tastes are.
Don't, however, think that this means MYSTARA is just a world of copycat non-originality with incompatible settings forced to exist together. Magic has a way of changing things, making the unlikely perfectly plausible and giving what may seems familiar on the surface enough twists to keep even the most jaded players on their toes. The interaction between these cultures is both natural and often fraught with tension and conflict.

Order vs. Anarchy
Unlike most other settings, in MYSTARA "Order" and "Anarchy" are far more often at odds with each other than "Good" and "Evil" necessarily are—though that's not to say that Good and Evil never clash.
MYSTARA focuses on the clash between Order and Anarchy rather than Good and Evil, though few wish evil to befall the entire world.
Order in MYSTARA is found in the many diverse societies and cultures of MYSTARA: the Plutocratic Republic of Darokin, the feudal society of Karameikos, the Mercantile Guilds of Minrothad, and the Principalities of Glantri. Usually lawful (and often good—at least from their own point of view) governing bodies try to keep community and economy strong and stable. But the forces of order are not always good—such as the Heldannic Knights and their subjugation of the indigenous people of the Heldannic Freeholds—and may not even be "Lawful".
Anarchy, on the other hand, is often found in the form of monster hordes: the Broken Lands, the Orclands in Darokin, the wilds of Karameikos, the Great Crater, the Desert Nomads... outside forces preying upon civilisation, usually chaotic (and often evil) in nature. It is also seen in certain elements within society: the factions of Glantri, the treachery in Thyatis, the civil unrest in Karameikos. The forces of anarchy are not always evil, and not even always "Chaotic" (in the 3e sense of the alignment)—such as the Alfheim refugees who flood the surrounding countries after their homeland was magically laid to waste—but they are always there.

Good guys vs... Good guys?
In most major Mystaran conflicts, it's hard to separate the good from the bad—there is rarely one side that is unequivocally "Right" and another that is unequivocally "Wrong". Sometimes one side is clearly better, but that's more by accident than design: in a world in conflict, it is bound to happen sooner or later. There are a few classic "bad guy" scenarios, and even in those that do exist it's not so much "Good" attacking "Evil" out of principle, it's more like "Evil" attacks a "Neutral victim" (Neutral because they didn't do anything to stop evil until they were personally attacked by it) and then "Good" responds.
But in MYSTARA—well, the fact is, though we gave it some serious thought, we have not been able to think of even a single example of a Good crusader who attacks Evil out of nothing save sheer principle.
Additionally, most plots and conflicts in MYSTARA tend to arise from the personal goals and ambitions of all the various parties. At first glance this may not seem any different than other settings; after all, it's the Evil villain's plans that put everything in motion. But the difference in MYSTARA is that it's everyone who has grand ambitions, not just the Evil villains, and these plans don't always please others. The conflict between Stefan Karameikos and Baron Ludwig von Hendriks is probably the closest thing to a classic Good vs. Evil plot in MYSTARA, but even Stefan made decisions that lead to actions that resulted in significant misery for others. First, he was granted autonomous rule of Traladara—a subject-nation that hadn't exactly been happy about being under Thyatian control to begin with—and immediately invited his fellow Thyatians to help him colonise the country. The Thyatians came in droves and their subsequent land-grabbing actions and contempt for the native Traladarans caused widespread misery and suffering. He also allowed his cousin, Baron von Hendriks, to get away with terrible persecution and tyranny for years simply because he was too naive to believe the reports was hearing which, to him, could only be outrageous exaggerations. He would even abandon his Thyatian allies in their hour of need—breaking a mutual defence treaty that he had signed with his former homeland when he felt that his young country's survival could only be guaranteed by forging a deal with Alphatia, Thyatis' enemy. Stephen is certainly good in comparison to Ludwig but, objectively speaking, he's a far cry from being good 100% of the time, yet he remains one of the shining examples of enlightened goodness in MYSTARA.

All the above is focused on the Known World, the original campaign setting of MYSTARA. Adding even more spice and variety to an already flavourful role-playing meal are the two other campaign settings, the SAVAGE COAST and the HOLLOW WORLD.
The SAVAGE COAST is found to the far west, a long way from where the countries of the Known World are nestled in their small corner on the south eastern tip of the continent of Brun. Few merchants and explorers of the Known World who travel so far venture past the port of Slagovich and into the regions beyond and those few that do rarely, if ever, return to their homes. Rumours abound about the region, ranging from stories that claim most people from the region have superhuman abilities that seem like arcane magic but are something else, to the existence of a strange metal, that cannot be mined anywhere else, that is as strong as steel but much lighter and has certain innate magical properties. It is a region full of swashbuckling heroes and strange lands that may just as easily be run by civilised societies of monstrous humanoids, such as the feline Rakasta or the canine Lupin, as by humans or demi-humans. It is a place unlike any other you've ever seen—assuming you're brave enough (or foolhardy enough) to actually go and see it.
The HOLLOW WORLD, in its turn, is something else again. There are very few people on the surface world who are aware of the fact that the planet of MYSTARA is a hollow sphere, and even fewer still who suspect that beneath their very feet rests a whole other world full of nations and cultures that were once found on the surface but have not been seen for centuries and even millennia. Although many of those who hear this tale wave it off as pure nonsense, they would be wrong for, unlike most celestial bodies, the planet of MYSTARA is a hollow sphere. Instead of a hot core of magma, there is open space, and it holds another world on the interior surface of the sphere and upon "floating continents" and "islands" that circle a small red-coloured sun located at the exact centre of the planet. This world is a museum; a store house of lost cultures from the surface world, placed on the inside of the planet by the Immortals, ostensibly to save them from extinction and preserve their ways forever. And, as with any museum, there are checks and balances to preserve and protect what is kept there, and so characters from the surface world who somehow manage to stumble into the HOLLOW WORLD will be in for lots of surprises beyond the most obvious ones.
In conclusion, MYSTARA is a whole world of many diverse cultures with a distant, mythic origin that is based on a techno-magical disaster. It is also a world of peers where a lowly gladiator can rise to be Emperor and where those with the diligence and the courage can even ascend to immortality, transcending the barriers of life itself.
Sounds like just the sort of setting you've been looking for? Then feel free to stay awhile and check it out.

MYSTARA is being converted to the d20 SYSTEMTM primarily for two reasons.
The first reasons is that, as a truly open-ended system, d20TM is an ideal window through which to look upon a world where all kinds of adventure are possible and an adventurer may one day do more than just dream of becoming an Immortal.
The second reason is the far more prosaic one of pragmatism; Since the 3.5 revision is the most recent edition of the D&D rules, it is also the one to which most people will have access, and so it only seemed logical to convert the setting.
It is the hope of the MYSTARA d20 Project team that this conversion will pique the curiosity of DMs and players who are unfamiliar with the settings that make up MYSTARA and the wealth of both official and unofficial information available for it, ultimately encouraging them to try their hand at a MYSTARA campaign of their own.
It is also our hope that existing fans of the MYSTARA setting will be inclined to use this conversion effort as their baseline for doing future MYSTARA development and conversions of their own. By starting from this conversion as a baseline for the majority of MYSTARA d20 campaigns, it should reduce the amount of work a fan has to do to convert from 0e D&D to D&D 3.5 and can, instead, concentrate on the new and creative aspects of her work. One need only reference this site, and provide details where exceptions to this conversion are assumed and all future developments for MYSTARA become easier, both for the developer and for the DM who wishes to add them to a campaign.