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Adapting Golarion's Thassilon to Mystara

by BjørnWR

I'm a sucker for ancient magical realms that have fallen, and Thassilon is another fun one. this is a brief introduction to the place and how to use it for Mystara. Comments and more ideas are always welcome.

In Golarion, Thassilon is an off-shoot of Azlant, the first and mightiest of human civilizations on that world. Thassilon's main schtick is rune magic. While runes are definitely a thing and important to Thassilon, it is not quite the same thing as we find in the Northern Reaches or the HR 1 Vikings, but a variation on specialist magic with heavy runic/glyph elements. Think of Forgotten Realms' Thay with a more symbolic approach. Divination was considered part of universal magic, so not something you could specialize in. The remaining magical schools were each associated with one of the seven virtues of leadership: wealth (Transmutation), abundance (Necromancy), fertility (Enchantment), honest pride (Illusion), eager striving (Abjuration), righteous anger (Evocation) and well-earned rest (Conjuration). This perception of magic was corrupted by Emperor Xin's most powerful minions into their corresponding sins: greed, gluttony, lust, pride, ency, wrath and sloth. There was also a heavy focus on ioun stones (heritage from Azlant) and magical clockwork.
Magic in the empire took a darker turn and soon the minions - the Runelords - assassinated the emperor and the empire split into seven realms. Centuries of plotting and striving followed before Earthfall, the mandatory cataclysmic event all D&D settings need, and Thassilon was wiped out, with much of it falling into the sea. Thousands of years follow with newer cultures building on ruins of the old and finding lost magic. Three adventure paths are written about the return of the most powerful members of ancient Thassilon to the modern day: Rise of the Runelords, Shattered Star, and Return of the Runelords.

So how does this fit into Mystara? More ruins and history to uncover is always good, so a more important question is where and when? An obvious candidate to fill in for Azlant as the parent nation is Blackmoor. If enough wizards of the Cabal felt Blackmoor wasn't good enough and/or just wanted more power, they could just move out a bit. The subsequent corruption of the empire could be naturally occurring, influence from evil Immortals or even the work of the Egg of Coot. Thassilon's advanced clockwork and advances towards higher technology also fits in well here.
If we want to go further back in time, Lhomarr could work too. A group of powerful spellcasters that are more concerned initially with self-rule and later with dominance than with the Yhog. This would also be more in line with Golarion's timeframe of some 10,000+ years from Earthfall to the present day.
Thassilon could be an offshoot of Alphatia, for those that want to bring it closer to the modern era. While there haven't been any good catastrophes to swallow half an empire in the seas since the Alphatians arrived, Thassilon could be something that happens now, assuming that the Wrath of the Immortals doesn't happen. Perhaps in the wake of the war with Thyatis (the stuff that happens in the M series of modules, concluding with Talons of the Night) a sizeable number of non-zzonga'd wizards, unhappy with Ariadne's leadership, carve out their own empire on Skothar. This would be good news for Glantri and possibly Thyatis, and make Alphatia very unhappy. Perhaps they even take over Norwold, making things even more tense in the region.

Another option is that Thassilon was a non-human realm. There are plenty of cool races that deserve more love. The Carnifex, probably the Yhog enemies of Lhomarr, are a prime candidate. Personally, I'm going with serpentfolk. I like the general concept of serpentfolk, the Serpentine Empires tie in well with aspects of Freeport, which I added to Mystara just off the Serpent Peninsula (it's called that for a reason), and they could use a bit more fleshing out. Francesco Defferarri's excellent "A recent history of Davania" mentions a civil war in the Second Serpentine Empire in 4560 BC, and this could be the creation of Thassilon. Thassilon's clockwork could be stolen Blackmoor tech (if one wants to bring in the SE as enemies of Blackmoor), and the GRoF is a good replacement for Earhfall to explain why the empire fell overnight and much of it fell into the sea.

Those who wish to run the APs in Msytara face a few issues. Simply replacing the Golarion names and organizations with Mystaran isn't too hard if set in primarily human lands. It's harder if set in modern day areas where non human/demi-human dominate. The biggest issue is geography. To avoid extensive rewrites of the locations and thus to the progress of the APs, Thassilon has to be placed on a coast and have a fair amount of mountains around them. If Thassilon is connected to Blackmoor, somewhere on the coast of Skothar works just fine. The bay of Thorin works splendidly, as well as almost anywhere on the Tangor peninsula, for instance.

I've generally tried to shy away from using the Known World too much for this sort of thing. There is so much of the world that is sorely underdeveloped, so I tend to put things outside. Plus it makes things easier when adapting.

Of course it didn't occur to me until just after I went to bed last night that M-Thassilon wouldn't need to split off from a larger more powerful culture in the first place. This opens up a lot more options for where and when. Going with my current idea of using it during the Second Serpentine Empire, it could itself be the SSE, not just an offshoot. This actually works a lot better for my campaign, as I'm planning on running an aunholy mash-up of the three Runelord APs for my player's character who is on the path of the Paragon and needs to quest for an artifact of Energy. the Sihedron works well for that, but the rest of the Runelords are too cool to leave unused, so all three APs it is.