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Primeval Mystara

by Travis Henry

First off, I would like to suggest a website that has the potential (unbeknownst to the site's webmasters) to be extremely useful for creators of Mystara material for years to come. The site is the homepage for the PALEOMAP project, which is a serious on-going work of a group of geologists and palaeoclimatologists, who have made an atlas of the Earth through time--and who continue to release new editions periodically as geologists' understanding of prehistoric geography increases. Umm...before I continue, I just wanna let you know that I am a geology (and art) major, and I plan to concentrate in cartography and geographic information systems.

My whole point to the following long and rambling discourse is that I feel we are lucky to have a bunch of RW scientists devoting their life's work to uncovering the position of the Mystaran continents throughout the ages ;-) I've found the world maps of Mystara that closely parallel RW palaeogeographic epochs, namely, sometime in the Late Triassic to Early Jurassic (~225-187 million years ago (Ma)) for the Pre-Cataclysmic map of Mystara, and definitely the Late Jurassic (specifically ~150mya) for the Post-Cataclysmic map. See if this world looks familiar: IRL, the change in the position of the continents between the Triassic and Jurassic was due to continental drift (which has been occurring since the formation of the Earth ~4 *billion* years ago, and is proceeding as we speak). On Mystara, the detonation of Blackmoorian nuclear devices produced a surprisingly similar result. Of course IRL, there was no corresponding shift in the polar axes.

Noticing the rather blank state of the Prehistoric (pre6000BC) chapter of Daniel Boese's Timeline of Mystara (at Shawn's site) has gotten me thinking on a way to provide at least a geographic and climactic, and perhaps a biological framework for Mystara's past. I propose that we (the Mystara community) adopt the geographic positions of Mystara's continents as being equivalent to Earth's/Laterre's/the Dimension of Myth's continental positions throughout time, both for Mystara's past and its future. While we're at it, we could also accept the palaeoclimactic and general vegetation regions of Earth's past. A suggestion that I'm less sure about, is to use the RW evolutionary history of Earth's plants and animals as inspiration for Mystara's past lifeforms in their appropriate prehistoric eras.

By the way, here's the URL for the intro to the PALEOMAP site: For a look at what Mystara would look like through the ages (past, present, and even *future*--every map following the RW-Jurassic period, including Modern Earth's geography, would be a view of the future position of Mystara's continents), I recommend first looking at the beautiful "Earth History" illustrations from oldest to youngest (start at the Precambrian), and then checking out the "Animations" in this order: Precambrian, Palaeozoic, Pangaea, Future. If you want to use this RW information for Mystara without shelling out $75 for the real atlas or $49 for an animated CD-ROM, then I suggest buying the "Continental Drift Flipbook" for $7.50 at the "Order Form" link at the site. (Or check out your local public or university library's geology section for similar info.)

If we do accept these parallels, then we need to come up with some reasoning for a number of divergences between the RWs and Mystara's prehistoric history (minus the obvious differences--Mystara is hollow, is smaller in diameter, has a skyshield, and sports a sunken continent in the Far-End (=RW Tethys) Ocean). If we decide to try to also match up the equivalent age's specific plant and animal species (which I'm not so sure is a good idea) we run into a problem: discounting "Lost World" regions (for example, the HW and the Isle of Dread), Mystara is primarily populated with flora and fauna of Holocene (=Recent) Earth (lions and tigers and bears et cetera). If Post-Cataclysmic Mystara exactly paralleled Earth in the Late Jurassic, then our PCs would never see grass (the dominant plant forms were conifers and ginkgoes) or mammals much larger than a rat, but instead would see *lots* of reptilian beasts. Anyway, I think we could use existing knowledge of evolution as inspiration, but not as a straitjacket. Either way, it could be explained that humans/demi-humans/humanoids and RW Holocene animals and plants came into existence much, much earlier (~150my earlier) on Mystara than on Earth--though when I say earlier, I only mean relative to the types of life that would be expected if Mystara exactly mirrored Earth, because I don't believe that Mystara is intended to *be* Earth/Laterre in the past (ie. the d'Ambrevilles and Klantyres weren't time travellers, rather, dimensional travellers), it's just that it happens, for some unknown reason, to uncannily geographically resemble Earth of 150mya. (But less so biologically--though there are some *correct* lifeforms--namely some of the dinosaurs and other "Lost World" critters, but even smilodons, for example, "shouldn't" exist yet.) However, we could just try to "slip in" the recent evolution (or creation) of the "RW modern lifeforms" (humans, squirrels, daisies, smilodons, etc.) into the last couple million years preceding Mystara's modern era, but past that cut-off point, try to gradually switch back to the "proper" flora and fauna for the equivalent Earth age. (Yet also populating each Mystaran age with magical and fantastic creatures and beings as well.)

Another divergence between RW-prehistoric Earth and modern Mystara is that during the Jurassic period, the face of the moon would have looked different than it does today--with a somewhat different look to its meteorite-formed set of craters and maria. This is no problem really, because I'd just say that Modern Mystara matches Jurassic Earth in geographic appearance, but Modern Matera instead matches Modern Luna (the Moon).

I think it's more important to consistently use Earth's known prehistoric continental, climactic patterns, and perhaps general vegetational regions, than it is to be really scientific with what plant and animal species existed when, though the RW primeval plants and animals are very interesting and alien, and with a little research, could provide tomes and tomes of new, odd creatures. Most people are only aware of the famous prehistoric creatures like the tyrannosaurus, triceratops, brontosaurus, and smilodon, but there really are thousands and even millions (counting lower life forms) of unique extinct species not treated in XD&D rules. On Mystara, there would of course be intelligent, magical, giant, miniature, and cross-bred versions of any particular age's flora and fauna--in addition to extraplanar beings, undead, and magical constructs, assuming some sort of intelligent beings with magical ability existed throughout most periods (probably most of modern-day Mystara's sentients (humans, elves, etc.) didn't exist back then, though it might be interesting to have some familiar sentient races rise and fall from civilisation to barbarity repeatedly over millions of years).

By accepting this timeline, we get 4 billion years to play with--enough time for thousands (tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands?) of "civilisation cycles" with each cycle equivalent to the most recent "civilisation cycle" that includes within it the entire history of the Lhomarrians, elves, Blackmoorians, and the modern nations. The modern cycle has existed about 12,000 years, beginning with the first mention of Lhomarrian hunter-gatherers. Note that "12,000" divides into "4,000,000,000" over 300,000 times, so 4by is a *long* time (the *entire* RW universe is thought to have come into existence only 10-20bya--so the Earth has been around a long time even relative to the history of the universe). AD&D already has a tool to explore these depths--the Chronomancer supplement. To explore the earlier cycles we would need to detail a chronomancy-type school of magic for the D&D magic-user. However, if eventually the earlier cycles were detailed enough, then whole campaigns could take place solely within these eras. With this much "time" to work with, Mystara's past would have a developmental potential on par with the potentially infinite planets/moons, galaxies, planes, dimensions, and realities that lie beyond the tiny bit of the Mystaraverse we are currently trying to bring to life.

When dealing with a truly geologic time depth, another issue that arises is which Immortals, if any, existed in the Prime Material Plane in that primordial dark--or was much of prehistory filled with the war between the Old Ones and the Outer Beings? Perhaps our current batch of Immortals is just the most recent crop or "class". A few, like Ka, may have been around for many, most, or even all of the civilisation cycles, but there may have been thousands of cycles of Immortals, each with hundreds or thousands of individual Immortals (especially counting all of the Immortals from every planet in the Mystery Path, not to mention the hundreds of millions of other galaxies in the D&D Multiverse--assuming the physical universe equals the scale of the RW) who did their part in "their" cycle, and have since passed on to greater things, perhaps Old One-hood. (Note that the size of "Mystaraspace" may be of a completely different magnitude in the AD&D Mystara reality (incidentally, I use "Mystara of the Great Ring", "Mystara of the Flow", and "Mystara of the Crystal Sphere(s)" for "in character" referral to the AD&D Mystara reality, and "Mystara of the Mystery Path" for the D&D reality), as the solar system may just end at the wall of the Crystal Sphere. I personally like Marco Dalmonte's D&D/AD&D Mystara crossover explanation the best at: The majority of the Immortals of today could be just the current "freshman class" of Immortals, and who will "graduate" once their particular civilisation cycle (and also "native" cycle, for most) has met its destiny after a period of maybe 50K-100K years. That would mean that we're still near the beginning of the Lhomarr-Blackmoor-Elves-Known World cycle and that there may have been about *40-80,000* preceding civilisation cycles--but probably half as less, as there would surely be some "down time" between civilisations, and also the first billion or so years of Mystara's existence would be hostile to life as we know it (yet there could easily have been cycles of strange elemental or non-oxygen breathing civilisations before that). I think this "classes of Immortals" theory makes sense, since IIRC many (most?) Immortals are less than a few thousand years old--totally insignificant in a geologic time frame. I mean, wasn't there anything interesting going on between 4,000,000,000BC and 11,000BC?

In addition to more "campaign space" to work with, a side benefit is that one can actually learn about the geological history of the Earth through incidental use of the "purloined" Mystaran palaeogeography--just as a D&D player might accidentally learn some useful information about RW cultures and languages through playing in parallel M-equivalents. And finally, why spend the effort to start from scratch when you've already got a marvellously complex RW model to work from, that will yield more and more depth the more you research it (there are people spending their entire careers detailing prehistorical knowledge that we can swipe for our own purposes)--and, importantly, that will easily mesh with Mystara? Sharon Dornhoff has done a similar thing by using the RW topography of the Moon to provide the framework for Matera and its Hollow Moon.

In conclusion, I know that my suggestion to use Earth's RW palaeogeographic appearance for Mystara may be getting a bit far ahead, being that we should probably feel lucky if we can just get the modern-day Known World and Savage Coast to be as detailed and coherent as we'd like. But, I wanted to throw this idea out to the Mystara community before everyone decided that Mystara is only 20,000 years old or something like that ;-) As a geology student, I kinda felt it was my obligation to try to give Mystara a (pre-)historical structure that has realism and incomprehensible depth, just like Earth. Let me know what your thoughts are on this.

I think "Primeval Mystara" would be a *long* term project :-) I'm kind of tied up in the short term, but I do plan to work on this and other ideas, and also plan to create a Mystara website some day--but I at least wanted to get the "Primeval" idea out in the meantime. I definitely think yours (Geoff's) and Sharon's Lhomarr-Y'hog Immortals information and also the info in the Carnifex File at Marco Dalmonte's site can fit into the civilisation cycles idea. Some of the following material is from Daniel Boese's Timeline of Mystara as well.

Here's a broad outline:

BC 8900-Present Day (1015 AC)
Cycle 0/"Cycle Zero"/"The Age of Humankind" (note that elves and other non-humans find this term humorous at best, insulting at worst)/"The Mammalian Age" (this term is especially used by the serpentine races) (9915+ years in length):

--Rise (with some falling) of the Lhomarrian, Blackmoorian, demi-human, Alphatian, Old World, Savage Coast, Oriental Skothar, and preserved Hollow World civilisations.
--Immortal worship nearly planet-wide. Ascension of most known Immortals.

BC 3000-Present Day: Advancement of the modern human and demi-human civilisations (particularly the nations of southern Brun, the Alphatian Sea, and parts of Skothar), rising from the Great Rain of Fire-induced Stone Age, through a Bronze Age and Iron Age, and ending in the present day. Arrival of the non-Mystaran Alphatian humans, and the subsequent rise of their empire. Many falling Outer World cultures (including Alphatia) transported to the Hollow World where they are preserved.
BC 3000: Nuclear destruction of the Blackmoor civilisation, along with many other Outer World peoples.
BC 3500: The rise of Blackmoor-influenced elven cultures.
BC 4000: The rise of Blackmoor and the Oltecs
BC 5000: The rise of the first great elven civilisation, Evergrun.
BC 6000: The three main branches of humanity, Tanagoro, Neathar, and Oltec, live as hunter-gatherers. Dwarves are mostly pastoral. Elves live a charmed simple life, protected by forest spirits. Halflings are greatly influenced by the elves.

"The Conflict Between Ages"/"The Transitional Age"/"The Age of Lhomarr and Y'hog"
(Transitional period between The Age of Humankind and The Age of the Carnifex):

--Rise and fall of the Old Lhomarrian human civilisation.
--Rise and fall of the Y'hog Carnifex civilisation.
--Continued OB worship, alongside a growth in Immortal worship.
--Only a handful of new Immortal ascensions (eg. Valerias). Most of these Immortals "have long since died" by the rise of modern civilisations.

*BC 7020-6920: In retaliation for Lhomarr's destruction, the Immortals cause the island of Y'hegg-T'uhath to slowly sink into the sea, with the Carnifex of Y'hog magically bound to their homeland, unable to escape. End of the Age of the Carnifex.
*BC 7022: The Outer Beings destroy Lhomarr.
*BC 7900-7024: Lhomarr and Y'hog war upon each other.
*BC 8300: Height of the Y'hog Carnifex civilisation.
*BC 8900: Unification of the Lhomarrian peoples and the beginning of the "Age of Humankind".
(* overlap of the Age of the Carnifex and the Age of Humanity)

BC 13,000-BC 6920
Cycle -1/"Cycle Minus One"/"The Age of the Carnifex"/"The Serpentine Age" (6080 years in length):

--Rise and fall of the Old Carnifex civilisation and their servant races.
--Cycle dominated by Outer Being worship.
--Few Immortals from previous cycles have survived and/or stayed behind to witness and shape this and later cycles. Some Immortals may have ascended during this time, including Ka. It's unknown whether the other "elder Immortals" of the modern cycle (eg. Ixion & Korotiku) existed previously, or came into being during this age.

BC 9000: The Immortals exile the Old Carnifex to the Pits of Banishment. The Carnifex of Y'hog arrive at the island of Y'hegg-T'uhath.
BC 10,000: Height of Carnifex civilisation. The Carnifex of Y'hog arise and remain isolated, sparing them from the future fury of the Immortals.
BC 11,000: Lhomarrian humans, the fourth branch of humanity, live a hunter-gather type existence. Their cultural level slowly advances during the next 2000 years.
BC 13,000: Unification of the Carnifex peoples and beginning of the Age of the Carnifex.
BC 40,000-20,000: Cultural, technological, and magical advancement of the Carnifex.
BC 50,000: Ka creates the ancestors of the Carnifex.

Cycle -2 to Cycle -?:


Between the formation of Mystara (4 *billion* years ago), and the beginning of the Age of the Carnifex (14 *thousand* years ago), there existed many thousands of civilisation cycles, each with their own class of Immortals, who ascended and either (a) went on to better things (Old One-hood, or to apply their efforts to other planes, dimensions, or realities--some because the bulk of their worshippers themselves migrated to non-Mystaran realms), (b) remained engaged with Mystara because they had an interest in influencing later cycles, because they simply enjoyed being with Mystara and its peoples, or because they hadn't yet succeeded in their quest for Old One-hood, or (c) were destroyed by excess energy expenditure, loss of followers, inter-Immortal strife, cosmic wars, or other hazards. Note, that the Outer Beings have attempted to corrupt mortal creatures for their own purposes (whatever they may be!) throughout the eons. The first Mystaran cycles probably consisted of elemental civilisations or other exotic races, as Mystara was a Hadean inferno with no oxygen atmosphere for its first billion years or so. The next civilisations were probably aquatic, as there was little dry land during the following eras.

Each cycle was typically dominated by one race which generally excelled in most fields of knowledge, and who, especially if of a culture which revered Immortals (as opposed to OBs), were capable of sending candidates on any of the Four Paths to Immortality (and unfortunately, also via the Fifth Path--in the Sphere of Entropy). In game terms, this means that each civilisation cycle had at least one dominant race who's members were capable of reaching 36th level in every class of the standard D&D tetrad, in addition to minor classes. Therefore, both Carnifex and humans, as the dominant races of their ages, were/are capable of unlimited advancement in the entire tetrad of classes. Note though, that some races advanced in a different "configuration" of classes. For example, some races may have had far more bards than thieves, or more dervishes than clerics. Also, it is speculated that there existed classes unknown in the modern age.

The Carnifex were the dominant race during the Serpentine Age, as is Humanity in the modern age. It is unknown what sort of strange civilisations preceded the Carnifex Tyranny. The dominance of one race doesn't preclude there being peripheral races with similar potential existing, often in a relatively primitive or secretive state, during the same era. The fall of the dominant race is usually followed by a period of general barbarism on the planet, and then by the rise of a previously marginal race to fill the same ecological niche.


I'm not so sure as to where the cycles should be divided (a problem facing RW historians too). Do you think the Age of the Carnifex should begin at BC 50,000 (the creation of the Carnifex) instead of 13,000 (the unification of the Carnifex)? But what if there was an unknown race that flourished, yet fell while the Carnifex were in their infancy, just as the Carnifex fell near the beginning of humanity's rise? Should the "Age of Lhomarr and Y'hog" be a cycle unto itself? Should the Age of Humanity begin at an different date than BC 8900 (the coronation of the first king of Lhomarr)? What do you think of the terminology used for the various periods? Can anyone think of better terms? Does this all make any sense?