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New Blackmoor, 3050 BC: The Known World before the Great Rain of Fireby Francesco Defferrari from Threshold Magazine issue 2
Foreword: This article gives some details about the area of the Known World as it could appear before the Great Rain of Fire. Most of the content of the article is partially inspired by [The Age of Blackmoor (by James Mishler)], but it certainly has many differences from his original idea.
Both his article and mine, however, assume that the Hollow World boxed set pre-cataclysmic map is more or less correct, so the continent of Brun IS NOT the North Pole as several canon and fan sources assume, just tilted 40° to the right. (See the map below.)
Tagline: New Blackmoor, a beacon of civilization in a still untamed continent, or the ruthless invasion of a once free land. See for yourself, and choose your side.
The area of Mystara that is now the Known World was very different in 3.050 BC, at the height of Blackmoor’s power. Once a land of fairies, giants, and brute-men, it changed first with the birth of two new races, dwarves and gnomes, and with the founding of the Draconic Empire. It changed again when waves and waves of humans came from the east and the south, and it changed dramatically when Blackmoorians came here for their crusade against the beastmen, establishing what should have been a temporary colony. Ancient and new people of the Sunset Land, the old name of the area, had been often bitter enemies, but they all agreed that Blackmoorians were invaders. Yet New Blackmoor proved always more powerful than anyone who tried to destroy it, and now the colony is the almost uncontested power of the land. From the fortress of Uthorrad to the shores of Tudaka the radiance lines run fast and strong.
A Technomagic Setting
The Known World at the time of Blackmoor is a technomagic setting, and that means that there is advanced and reproducible magic that can be used by people who haven’t studied the arcane arts. Pure wizards are considered primitives among Blackmoorian humans, who prefer technomages or scientists. At this time, the cult of the Immortals is losing ground to rationalism. Carriage or radiance lines (i.e. trains) connect the major cities of New Blackmoor; radiance weapons are common, and the rich and powerful can also afford technomagic servants and implants, and several other toys. Despite all the power of Blackmoor, most of the people of the colony still live in destitution, and some of them in slavery, suffering in fields and mines. Technomagic is not available to everyone, and there is no mass industrial production as in the real world, so it’s still a fantasy world, with many tech-like elements. Powerful mercantile companies based in Skothar wield huge power in the Blackmoor dominated Mystara. In the Sunset land, the Teigh-Mohr Co., based in Lowkeep, is the primary power in the south.
The flying techships can reach not only every area of the world but also other planes and planets, and so it’s not impossible to encounter in the colony beings from faraway places. Some important Mystaran people, however - like the hin and the Tangor men - are as exotic as aliens in the Sunset land, as they do not have a significant population here. Others, like beastmen, lizardmen, tortles, lupins, and rakastas, are historically persecuted and despised, and can still be killed on sight in New Blackmoor, despite being accepted in many other surrounding lands.
Brief History of the Sunset Land
Traditionally the Sunset Land was inhabited by ancient races such as dragons, fairy folk, sasquatches, giants, and brute-men. Several millennia before 3050 BC, however, two other important peoples began to call this land their home: dwarves and gnomes, the sons of the earth, who spread over the mountains and the hills, sometimes in friendship with other races, sometimes in enmity. Other, stranger people came over the millennia: many lizard people from their powerful empires in the south, araneas from their kingdom in the west, all of them leaving a lasting presence in the Sunset Land. The first humans to touch these shores were the Oltec men in remote times, and much later the Naq, a Lhomarrian-related people who inhabited the valley of the Nithus river. Around 9500 BC the first seed of the future Oltec Empire was already established in the Black Mountains. Oltec and Lhomarrian ships dominated the western sea and the eastern ocean, while other humans - the Valoins - came to northern Brun.
But from 8200 BC onwards a vast area of the world, Sunset Land included, was violently hit by the expansion of Y’hog. The carnifex even established a lasting colony, enslaving Oltec and Naq men, conquering several areas of northern Davania and pushing groups of Oltec survivors to the Sunset Land.
For a millennium, up to 7022 BC, Lhomarr and Y’hog fought many wars in Davania and eventually both were destroyed. The struggle impacted another Davanian power - the Serpentine Empire - and sent other refugees, in this case the reptilian lizard men and troglodytes, to the Sunset Land.
In the following millennium, from 7000 to 6000 BC, several different nations of Neathar humans came gradually into the Sunset Land from the north or the Dawn land; the pale and blonde Antalians, the red haired Dunharians and Vantalians, the darker Maharians and Toralai. At the end of the millennium in Davania the enduks, the elves, and the hin had established powerful empires, and their ships came as far as the Sunset land, where the Oltec nations and the dwarves grew more powerful every day. Dwarf and gnome colonists went toward Skothar and northern Brun at this time, and gnome colonists as far as Davania.
Attacked by dwarves and humans, the carnifex colony of Kha-reth near Anur lake was destroyed around 5500 BC. The powerful sorcerer Akhor escaped the destruction and found refuge among the lizardmen of the Nithus valley. Shortly after, the dragons attacked and founded their empire spanning all the Sunset Land, overwhelming any resistance. Only the giants of Gandhar in the Dawn Land remained outside their rule.
Around 5000 BC Davania had three powerful nations: the Golden Empire in the northwest, the Elven Empire in the south, and the Serpentine Empire in the East. The Golden Empire started backing Oltec and Neathar rebellions against the Dragon Empire, freeing the southern and western parts of the Sunset Land. The lizardman nation of Mogreth maintained good relations with the Dragon Empire and the Serpentines, who were expanding in northern Davania and among the islands of the Sun Sea, up to Adhuz. In faraway Skothar the Skandaharian raiders grew powerful, their long ships attacking even the Dawn land and the Dragon Empire, while the Thonian Empire grew in the middle of the continent.
Around 4500 BC a vast movement of people brought to the Sunset Land elven colonists, the horse riding humans of Yali and Etesh, and the beastmen hordes, who were quickly used by the Dragon Empire against the rebellious dwarves, Oltecs, and Neathar. The Oltec Empire however successfully resisted and were even aided other people against the dragons. Meanwhile, the Serpentine Empire of Davania was in decline under hin and elven attacks and internal rebellions, losing all its northern territories.
In 4000 BC the Kingdom of Blackmoor was founded in Skothar, and around 3900 BC the Thonian Empire fell. Thonian refugees came to the southern Dawn land and from there into the Sunset Land, boosting the resistance of dwarves, elves, Oltecs, and Neathar against the Dragon Empire.
Around 3800 BC, the kingdom of Mogreth was destroyed by a combined assault of the Oltec Empire, Thonian colonists, and dwarves, but the area remained a battleground for many more years.
Around 3600 BC, the first Blackmoorian explorers came to the Sunset Land, and shortly after Blackmoor began to aid the dwarves and humans against the Dragon Empire.
Around 3550 BC, the Free Dwarven Principalities were founded and the Dragon Empire pushed north.
In 3450 BC, New Thonia was founded in the Dawn land, and more Thonians and Blackmoorians came to the Sunset Land.
In 3430 BC a major crisis fragmented the Oltec Empire, and its western half became the Azcan Empire. The Golden Empire of Davania continued to back the former, and the Dragon Empire began to aid the latter, with Blackmoor intervening on whichever side was most beneficial at the time.
In 3420 BC Blackmoor launched the First Beastmen Crusade, intervening in the Sunset Land as well. After the Treaty of Gandhar, they claimed huge territories in the northwest, formerly dragon lands, and to the south of the Dwarven Principalities, formerly free Neathar lands. Blackmoor colonization was slow at first, hindered by the Blackmoorian-Thonian war of 3370-3330 BC.
In this difficult time, the Serpentine Empire rose once again, expanding into Davania and reaching the Sun Sea again. The alliance with the Dragon Empire almost crushed the Oltecs, Azcans, and dwarves, who had to forge an unstable alliance to resist. Aid came only in 3310 BC, when Blackmoor conquered the Paradise Islands and established a strong base there. In 3300 BC the Blackmoorians destroyed the Serpentine imperial city, finally breaking their power. In 3260 BC the Teigh-Mohr Company arrived in the Sunset Land, and every rebellion against the Blackmoorians was crushed.
To avoid colonization, in 3225 BC, the northwestern Neathar founded the Consolidated Tribes of Neathar, while in the conquered lands the Brotherhood of Freedom began to campaign against slavery, sometimes peacefully and sometimes not. The Dragon Empire tried vainly to fight back, encouraging beastmen attacks against the Blackmoorians, who between 3230 and 3200 intervened with the Second Beastmen Crusade, conquering all the land up to Uthorrad.
The last major expansions of the Blackmoor colony came in 3062 BC, when the Vantalian Kingdom of V’dar was annexed, and in 3057 BC, when the colony absorbed many territories of the eastern Azcan Empire after the destruction of Koskatepetl (see [http://pandius.com/Threshold_1.pdf, Mirror of the Eternal Night (by Francesco Defferrari)] and the revolt of the Church of Ixion against the Azcan Emperor. The new governor, Moorkroft, is now trying to normalize the external and internal situation of New Blackmoor, after years of rebellions and wars.
Great Colony of New Blackmoor
Description: Stretching from the islands of the Dread Sea to Uthorrad, New Blackmoor is a huge colony that has subjugated or absorbed almost all the inhabitants of the Sunset Land except for giants, dragons, dwarves, and the Azcan Empire. Yet for all its power, New Blackmoor is not as powerful as it would like to appear and be. Even after several crusades (i.e. campaigns of extermination) against beastmen (a broad category that often includes lupins, rakastas, and other non-human people) and several interventions (i.e. mass burning of communities and enslavement of all surviving inhabitants) against non-cooperative people of the colony (i.e. people unwilling to be enslaved), bandits and raiders (i.e. resistance groups) spring up everywhere. Some areas became a bit dangerous for travelers as the colony has little to no effective rule over them. New Blackmoorian society has become highly hierarchical as in Skothar, with politicians, scientists, technowizards, priests, and warriors at the top. Traders, artisans, free farmers, and specialized workers are in the middle, and slaves are at the bottom. Despite the harshness of Blackmoorian rule, outside the major cities among elves and Neathar humans, there are still many egalitarian villages and clans.
Ruler: Lord Uther Moorkroft, newly appointed Governor-General of the colony, is a young and ambitious Blackmoorian diplomat who, knowing almost nothing of the savage west, came directly from the motherland in Skothar to replace the assassinated and hated Lord Blackhill. He didn’t like what he found as too many Blackmoorian petty nobles had alienated the local population. He is trying to improve things with the aid of his most trusted friends, general Hans Drachenfel and scientist Theodore Rafiel.
Population: 10 million inhabitants of which only 5% are Blackmoorian colonists. The rest are High and Low Thonians (5%), elves, and several other human populations, with minorities of dwarves, gnomes, fairyfolk, sandfolk, dragons, and giants.
Capital and Other Cities: Redfen (modern Glantri City), is the capital of the colony with 500,000 inhabitants. Uthorrad (in the far north), Sunland (in modern Broken Lands), Blackpeak (in modern Lost Valley), Grassdale (in modern Ethengar), Lowkeep (modern Stronghold), Dawncity (modern Tel Akbir), and Southfall (just below modern Hattias) are the other major Blackmoorian cities, each with more or less 100-150,000 inhabitants. All these cities and two more in the Dwarven Principalities are connected by the technomagical radiance line, which moves people, wares, and armies throughout the colony.
Adventure Opportunities: New Blackmoor is huge, and opportunities are infinite. If working for the government, adventurers could be asked to explore remote and almost unknown areas of the colony, such as the Adris Plain or the Nithus Delta. They could contact or infiltrate rival neighbours, outlawed churches, or rebellious organizations. If working against the government, adventurers could free slaves, plan sabotages, attack the radiance line, defend rebel leaders, and much more.
Cities and Provinces
Highlands: Formerly inhabited by fairies, giants, and groups of Antalian and Dunharian Neathar, this land is the center of the colony of New Blackmoor. The capital of Redfen and the northern city of Rittenstad (modern Ritterburg) are the most important population centers, both along the radiance line. Yet the high mountains of this region are still inhabited by wild monsters and obviously fairies, giants, rakastas, lupins and persistent rebels.
Alvanil: Highly technomagic elves of dark complexion live just south of Redfen and are perfectly integrated into human society, to the point that - while not cruel - they accept without too many problems questionable human customs, such as the exploitation of the natural word and fellow humans. This includes slavery and other things disapproved of and opposed by other elven clans.
Sunland: A unique case in New Blackmoor, this region (the modern Broken Lands) is governed by the enlightened High Thonian Count Ludwig Hatten, a former general who has freed all his Albai slaves of the Keres and Thays clans, and has called a group of Thonian elves - the Loshenalfen - to aid him in building a utopian and free nation. (These people will become Thyatians, Kerendans, Hattians, and Schattenalfen.) Hatten has good relations with Moorkroft.
Uthorrad: This northern keep watches over the savage lands beyond the Arctic Circle, where beastmen and wild giants still dwell, several campaigns of extermination notwithstanding.
Thonian province: Established by Lower Thonians, this colony to the west of Uthorrad is almost independent, has no slavery, and minimal technology. It also maintains good relations with the Neathar tribes and the Azcan Empire. Blackmoorians tolerate them because they are the main avenue of land trade with the north and the west, and they pay rich taxes in precious minerals.
V’dar: This once independent kingdom north east of Uthorrad is inhabited by Neathar humans loosely related to ancient Thonians. (They will be the ancestors of the Vandars and Zuyevans.) They were recently conquered by the cruel Blackmoorian general Jon Sable, who was later killed by Ethesh rebels. The army and the royal family were exterminated and half the population was enslaved and deported to plantations in the Naqa valley. (They will become the Traldars.)
Adris: This huge and arid plain, the original homeland of the Azcans and - until a few years ago, mostly belonging to their empire - is also inhabited by the ancient sandfolk, deported from Skothar, and by humans of mixed Neathar and Oltec blood, known as the Mandra, who ferociously resist Blackmoorian colonization. (They will become the Oghriz after the Great Rain of Fire.) The recent Blackmoorian acquisition and the discovery of black oil in the plain has multiplied the colonization efforts.
Genalleth: Living in their valley (which will become Wendar), these elves use little or no technomagic and form an almost independent nation within the colony. They are ruled by a council of nine wise elves called the Korrigans, who - according to rumors - are not really elves but another, more ancient race, or perhaps even dragons. The public face of the council is a seemingly young female elf named Idris. Officially in the best of relations with the Blackmoorians, there are factions among them that would like to aid the rebels and join their brothers, the Geffronell of the Draconic Empire, in a unified elvish kingdom. Several communities of Antalian and Dunharian humans also live in the Genalleth valley. The elves have vigorously and successfully opposed any attempts by the Blackmoorians to enslave them.
Ethesh: These people are related to the Peshwah of Skothar and came from there centuries ago. Conquered by the Blackmoorians, they rebelled several times and were punished gruesomely (as they stubbornly refuse to become good slaves). Now a mysterious new leader named Cretia is having more and more success in fighting off Blackmoorian forces. (They will become the Ethengarians.)
Antalia: In the area of modern Heldann, in a former territory of a Skandaharian colony absorbed by New Blackmoor. This small land has, incredibly, resisted systemic colonization thanks to the efforts of two mysterious leaders, brother and sister, and has therefore gained a status of semi-independence.
Toralai: These people in the modern area of Darokin and Alfheim have tried in vain to resist Blackmoor and now seem resigned to their fate. Some have escaped into the Azcan Empire, where traditional bison migration patterns have not been disrupted. From that border they conduct raids against Blackmoorian troops. Others have seen their situation improve when the Kintanor Elves (see below) began to protect and aid them.
Celebryl, Porador, Felistyr, and Gelbalf: These four clans - also known as the Kintanor - love technomagic and live in the area that will become Alfheim. Moved by the plight of Toralai in the area, they have recently joined the abolitionist cause and have done everything in their power to aid the humans, who almost worship them. There is a growing faction eager to resort to violence in order to end slavery.
Eokai: Until recently this land was part of the Azcan Empire. It is now occupied by the Blackmoorians, but most of the inhabitants - unwilling to bow before them - have escaped into Azcan lands. Those remaining, in the modern area of the Fire Shires and southern Darokin, have been enslaved. After the Great Rain of Fire they will be absorbed by the Maharians and the southern Mawa and will form the Makai people.
Maharia: Once the most powerful southern Neathar kingdom of the Sunset Land, this matriarchal society in the area of modern Ierendi stubbornly resisted the Azcan occupation and was only recently “liberated” by the Blackmoorians. Even though not independent, it has instituted the prohibition of slavery within its territory. The result is that hundreds of people from other regions are now escaping here, creating several problems even though the Maharians are willing to aid them.
Albai: This is one of the most uncontrollable regions of the colony, because the Albai are a proud people who resisted the Blackmoorians from the start. Even though they have been massacred and enslaved by the thousands, resistance is still strong in the area which one day will become Karameikos, Kerendas, and Minrothad.
Tudaka: Living mostly on lands now under the sea in modern times, these southern Neathar build great megaliths with magical properties. They will survive the Great Rain of Fire but not the Taymoran conquest and the 1700 BC cataclysm, so they will be brought to Colima in the Hollow World.
Naqa: The valley of the rivers Dith and Nith was inhabited by humans of mixed descent - Neathar, Oltec, and Lhomarrian. Half of them live happily in dwarven territory, but the others suffer as slaves in the plantations with the recently enslaved V’dar. A part of the east, however, is inhabited by freemen of an earlier Thonian colony, mixed with the locals.
Hidden Mogreth: The lizardmen empire was destroyed centuries ago but the delta of the Dith and Nith rivers is still an untamed wilderness of mutated monsters that even Blackmoorian technology has not been able to subdue. The truth is that Mogrethians still hide here, and have serpentine magical aid, too.
Tjeset: A nation of Lhomarrian and Neathar humans that - after being conquered by New Blackmoor - has turned to piracy with great efficiency. Wild rumors say that a true Immortal, The Sailor (aka Sinbad) is guiding them. The truth is that the Blackmoorians control the land, but not the sea.
The Dwarven Principalities: Much larger than modern Rockhome, it includes all the Northern Reaches, the Oost Land Bridge, the west of Ylaruam and the east of Darokin. The land of the Kogolor Dwarves and the gnomes is divided into several autonomous principalities that maintain different customs but have good relations with one another. Several giants and fairies and other races - like humans - are recognized as citizens, too. The dwarves and the gnomes love technology but hate slavery so have a mixed relation with the Blackmoorians, yet they let the radiance line pass through their territory.
The Giant Realm of Tarsh: Officially a giant kingdom in the area of the modern Altan Tepes Mountains, this realm is also inhabited by dragons, fairies, and Albai humans, and was established in concert by Ghaudar and the Draconic Empire to limit Blackmoorian power in the Sunset Land. New Blackmoor has decided not to attempt a conquest of the mountains, in part because there is a thriving gem and ore trade with this nation.
The Giant Empire of Ghaudar: Ruled by wise and powerful King Hymir, this realm in the middle and upper Dawn Territories is ancient and, even in decline, still powerful enough to maintain its independence. It is inhabited by giants as well as fairies, trolls, aranea, humans (of Oltec, Lhomarian, Antalian, and Dunharian descent), dwarves, gnomes, and dragons.
New Thonia: Claiming a huge expanse of land in the lower Dawn territories and the peninsula of Tung (Ochalea), this colony really controls much less. Giants, araneas, rakastas, fairies, and wild human tribes actually dominate the interiors of this land. The rest is an enslaved nightmare where several revolts have been brutally suppressed.
The Draconic Empire: Controlling modern Norwold, Denagoth, and the endless north - partially a temperate area in this age - the Draconic Empire has for centuries been an enemy of the Dwarven Principalities and of New Blackmoor. Defeated but not conquered, it is still a great power in the world. The dragons have giants, fairies, beastmen, brutes (that according to some are an ancient human race; to others a bastard race of humans and beastmen), humans, and even elves as subjects. Emperor Mengul, a huge and ancient red dragon, is the wise and undisputed ruler of this land.
Geffronell Elves: This clan lives in the warm Mengul Plains, under the formal authority of the Draconic Empire. They are known for having established good relations with many races, including dragons, brutes and beastmen, and so have had misunderstandings with other elves. They do not like the Blackmoorians and are always willing to aid the resistance against them.
Azcan Empire: Once a part of the Oltec Empire, this nation is a militaristic society that no longer poses a threat to New Blackmoor. It is very busy periodically attacking the Oltec Empire, in vain attempts to conquer once and for all the rich Sinda Forest. Seven years ago it fell into civil war and lost many territories to both the Blackmoorians and the Oltecs. The Blackmoor colony, however, has deemed it wiser to support the failing Azcan Empire against the Oltecs, after putting a more friendly tlatoani on the throne now that it is very probable that the Azcan - Oltec war will soon resume. Many other people besides Azcans populate the empire, such as the sandfolk and the Madra humans of the arid Adris Plain and the peaceful Oteino Oltec humans in the southwest.
Oltec Empire: Stretching east and west of the Black Mountains, this old empire would have already fallen into Azcan hands if not for the friendship of the powerful Golden Realm of Davania, which considers it very useful to keep Blackmoorian influence away from the west. Ten years ago the Azcans could have conquered the empire anyway, but a very powerful wizard general, Rathanos, was able to defeat the traditional enemy against all odds. Following the civil war among their enemies, the Oltecs have gained many territories.
The Consolidated Neathar Tribes: Ruled by Empress Djaea, this nation of Neathar humans of Antalian, Dunharian, Vantalian, and other ethnicities makes almost no use of technomagic and preserves nature instead. A growing number of elves who don’t like technomagic have come to live among them. Many other races like fairies and gnomes are welcomed here.
Adhuza: This great island was once the domain of the Serpentine Empire, but after their last defeat against Blackmoor the southern seas have become a domain of Skotharian ships. A newly formed government of the mysterious Empress Slizzark, however, has driven the Blackmoorians from some of the land but - much to the Empire’s frustration - attempts to fully reclaim Adhuza have for now been unsuccessful. An incredible variety of races live in this land: sea creatures, brute-men, rakastas, araneas, humans of several different stocks, and many other races, all strangely united in resisting - with their primitive weapons and odd magic - the most powerful empire in the world.
The Future of New Blackmoor
In the following 50 years the colony will further grow in power and technomagic, but will be hardly hit by the Great Rain of Fire. Many Blackmoorians of the Sunset Land will die or be killed by other survivors who will want revenge or will consider them responsible for the disaster. Some, however, will survive in the lands that will one day become Glantri, Darokin, the Northern Reaches, and other nations, contributing to the human population that will become the modern Known World, their remote and glorious past little more than an old and half-forgotten story to tell children during the coldest nights of winter.