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"Talking 3E for Mystara"

by Bruce Heard

THE GOAL: Since it is getting increasingly difficult to win over new players for Mystara, I suggest that a standard game system be used when discussing Mystara on the net or at conventions, as much as is possible. Obviously, I'm not asking anyone give up their preferred game. Whatever they play at home is of course fine. I'm only suggesting that a standard game LANGUAGE be used for the purpose of net discussions. Please understand that I neither advocate dropping OD&D or anyone's favoured game system as their gaming platform at home, nor getting rid of "canon" Mystara as we all know it.

The main idea is to offer a version of Mystara that is readily useable by the next big wave of new D&D players -- we can work later on convincing them to explore OD&D, once they have developed a genuine interest in Mystara. One way of accommodating them is that 3rd Edition D&D be used as the default game language on the net and possibly at conventions. This would alleviate the difficulty of them handling both an OOP game world and OOP game rules. This entails establishing a 3E-friendly version of Mystara that everyone feels comfortable with, and the creation of 3E-Mystara Guidelines that define differences with "canon" Mystara and conversion mechanics. Here are some initial guidelines on how this could work..

A. You favour OD&D Mystara

A1. You don't have to change one iota of your setting. Play at home as you always do. The 3E Mystara version is separate from "canon" Mystara, probably with a minimum of differences. Some changes are to be expected to accommodate 3E rules as is practical without adversely affecting the look and feel of Mystara (see "Defining Mystara", appended at the end of this file).

A2. Keep an eye on the key differences between 3E- and "canon" Mystara. You don't have to purchase 3E rules since hopefully 3E-Mystara Guidelines will be clear and complete enough to help you use its language just as if you were a 3E veteran!

B. You favour 3E Mystara (and have been playing with another set of rules)

B1. The World Setting: world features listed earlier and which presumably define the original Mystara do not change much (see "Defining Mystara", appended at the end of this file).

B2. Immortals: their descriptions, history, personalities, motivations, and general feel remain unchanged. However, they should be adapted to match mechanics available in 3E (probably some tweaking on both ends, especially as regards to Immortal abilities and mechanics for mortals attaining Immortality). They should probably be treated as "deities" in the 3E version (although they have no ties to existing namesakes in other campaign worlds since Mystara belongs to a separate universe).

B3. Monsters: convert those OD&D monsters not available with 3E, else use/modify the closest equivalents for the sake of simplicity. I'm still waiting for a sample 3E monster description from WotC; judging from what's included in the 3E PHB, I suspect monsters stats will include several new and useful ratings. A list of "illegal" monsters should be drafted especially for the Known World, not because I'm a power-crazed tyrant but simply because some monsters may adversely affect the setting itself (possibly like the drow and I'm sure some others -- fire away, folks!). Finally, open up the rest of the list to 3E DM's.

B4. Characters: convert existing NPCs as closely as possible to available 3E equivalents so as not to alter the world setting. Possibly disallow 3E NPC characters that just can't be converted back to OD&D (although I suspect this one's too restrictive). Open-up all of the PC character options available in 3E. Alignments need to be looked at carefully. Evil in 3E often means Chaotic in OD&D, but Chaotic in OD&D does not always convert back to Evil in 3E (and so on...) Not necessarily ALL existing stats in "canon" Mystara need be converted for this project - just enough to be attractive to new 3E players (else, the conversion guidelines should be good enough to enable 3E players to easily achieve the same). This otherwise can be achieved over time.

B5. General Game Mechanics: identify the truly "offending" 3E mechanics that are definitely "out" for Mystara (I'd think psionics would fit in this category - fill free to add more if there's a good reason). Else... open up the 3E game mechanics entirely since they should have no noticeable impact on the world setting. That's a no-brainer.

C. You don't know anything but 3E

C1. Get a copy of the 3E-Mystara Guidelines and try to follow the settings guidelines when posting messages. Hopefully, most of the info showing on the MML/MMB will remain familiar to you, if not plain 3E material already.

D. Putting it together

C1. Non-3E Mystarans should check out the 3E-Mystara Guidelines. Try to present your stuff in accord with these guidelines, provided you want to make that effort. Else, do as you do normally. Most of the effort consists in simply converting relevant OD&D stats to 3E and listing either the 3E stats or both. Fortunately, most of the posts are "stat-free" which should make life fairly easy for everyone. Cooperation would be appreciated.

C2. Hopefully, a majority of people will deliberately support the concept of a standardised 3E platform to communicate on the net. Actually, something useful in 3E- Mystara Guidelines would be pointers for non-OD&D players on how to create NPC characters for Mystara that aren't too difficult to translate back to OD&D.


This general list summarises major features defining Mystara's feel as a world setting. It includes comments made by several people and remains open, should other relevant features come to light.

1) Mystaran Cosmogony: Mystara is a separate universe independent from the Spelljammer/Planescape reality. Mystara has a magical sky shield, and anti-magic ring, polar openings, an entire hollow world, an invisible moon, etc.

2) The Known World's Structure: Distinctions by culture in smaller areas vs. distinctions mostly by race across larger areas. All areas of the Known World are clearly defined by their borders and very well detailed (geographic features, population figures, etc).

3) Real World Inspiration: Mystaran cultures are fantasised adaptations of RW historical models. On the other hand, very different cultures are often immediately adjacent regardless of RW racial or geographic models.

4) Cultural Dynamics: most Mystaran cultures and races show complex interactive links between each other and on-going master-plots driving their past and present histories. No culture is considered truly evil or good, as such perceptions are based upon local misconceptions and biases.

5) Politics/Economy: Well-developed economy and politics among people and nations remain a trademark of Mystara. Decisions made by the various rulers have a direct impact on everyday life. Seeking either to become rulers or get involved with the business of established heads of states is a recurrent feature for adventurers.

6) High Fantasy/High Magic: Mystara blends a high degree of magic into its system. Regions like Nithia, Alphatia, and Glantri have developed specific fields of magic (constructs, flying ships, Secret Crafts, etc) to a high degree. Nearly every region has its own brand of magic -- some cultural, some job-oriented, some racial, etc.

7) Multifaceted NPCs: Each realm harbours a multitude of well-developed heroes, villains, and leaders (and as many guilds and secret sects) cast interchangeably as allies OR enemies on the whim of the DM and the PC's own biases. Mystaran NPCs demonstrate motives, misconceptions, and alliances DESIGNED to entangle with one another, behind the scenes.

8) Role-Reversals: Where else would lycanthropes seek to PUBLICLY establish themselves as a political lobby, or subterranean elves be NICER than some of their surface-elves rivals, or merfolk cheerfully explain how humans evolved from THEM...? Mystara frequently allows what-ifs, thought-experiments, and in-jokes to be explored, where other settings would dismiss them as silly or frivolous. Many non-human races are also available as PCs in Mystara.

9) Immortality: Characters and monsters can become divine beings, which in turn affects "religion" in Mystara. The personality, motivations, and abilities of Immortals are highly detailed, as well as their interaction with mortals. Immortals are not related to gods of other game settings.

10) Game Restrictions: These are legacies of Mystara's original game system which limited in particular racial and character abilities as well as certain monster types. It is generally assumed that NPCs created for the Known World should conform to the original model. However, character and racial features available in 3E should remain largely available for PCs. Regions outside of the Known World are also fairly tolerant of 3E character types and monsters. Highly intelligent monsters are usually adapted specifically to one of Mystara's settings. Gun powder is not available, except for smokepowder in the Savage Coast region. Psionics are also alien to Mystara.