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The World of Ishtarby Stefano Leonardi from Threshold Magazine issue 15
Part I: Geography
The World of Ishtar is my personal campaign world. I started working on it in the 1990s, inspired by the articles about fantasy Africa published in Dragon Magazine. From the beginning I set it into Mystaraspace, occupying the "Venus" position. It started as a standard 2nd Edition AD&D game world (possibly using Spelljammer rules for interplanetary travel, since Mystaraspace hadn't been developed for 2nd Edition), later partially converted to 3rd Edition D&D. With the development of the fanon Mystaraspace setting, all of the pieces can be put together to allow its use with BECMI rules too. (The "official" World of Ishtar interpretation is that Mystaraspace lies in a peculiar point of the multiverse which marks a transition between a BECMI-style universe with galaxies and BECMI-style planes, and a Spelljammer-style universe with crystal spheres and (A)D&D-style planes. If you leave Ishtar and Mystara, the type of space you find depends on the mode of travel you use: if your ship is powered by a spelljamming helm, you will encounter a crystal sphere and pass through it to the phlogiston, while if it is powered by other means of propulsion, you will travel the galaxy.)
The world is obviously inspired by the planet Venus (the topography is based on that of the real planet, with the continents located where the highest elevation areas lie), but I developed it to be habitable (so it is hot but has no runaway greenhouse effect; the seas are slightly acidic, but the atmosphere is breathable, etc.).
The first part of this article will focus on a geographical description, while the second part will detail the history of the world, as well as the main powers and characters shaping it, and the third part will detail monsters and races.
"Ishtar" is the local name of the world occupying the "Venus" position in the Mystaraspace solar system (and thus the first planet before WotI or the second planet after WotI). The name comes from the northern continent of the planet, which in turn comes from an ancient name for the Immortal Valerias. It is a hot world, whose sky is dominated by a large sun (its apparent size is about double the apparent size from Mystara), and whose environment is different and dangerous, yet teeming with life and resources.
Ishtar is slightly smaller than Mystara (its radius is about 6000 km) and orbits at 100 million kilometers from the sun. The Ishtarian day is the same as the Mystaran day (24 hours), but the Ishtarian year is only 224 days long (two Mystaran years correspond exactly to three Ishtarian years). All references to years in this series of articles will be to Ishtarian years. The planet has no moons, so there is no such concept as a standard "month": each culture has its own subdivision of the year, if any (seasons, "months" based on constellations, named weeks, or nothing of this). Like other bodies in Mystaraspace, Ishtar is also hollow, but there are no polar openings and the interior of the planet is completely filled with water (the interior side hasn't been explored yet, possibly only the Immortals know what lies there).
The planet has three main continents and one minor continent. The continent of Ishtar lies in the northern hemisphere, near the northern pole. The continent of Pharodeti (an anagram of another ancient name of Valerias) stretches across the equator, while another continent (still unexplored) lies around the southern pole. The minor continent of Betaland (actually a large crater left by an asteroid impact millions of years ago) lies southwest of Ishtar1.
Like Mystara, Ishtar has climate zones, but they are generally hotter than their equivalents on the other planet. The zones around the poles have a temperate climate, with warm summers and cool winters. The "subarctic" zones are subtropical instead (summers are hot, winters are tepid). The middle latitudes have a climate similar to tropical zones of Mystara, except that the yearly temperature excursions are much wider. The "subtropical" zones are actually "super-tropical" with Furnace temperatures, while the tropics have Inferno temperatures (description of these heat levels can be found in the Dark Sun supplement DSR4 Valley of Dust and Fire: if you don't have this supplement, simply assume that humans without magical protection can not survive for longer than a number of days equal to their Constitution divided by 2, except for Furnace zones in winter when the heat is equivalent to a normal tropical climate).
Ocean water on Ishtar contains poisonous mineral substances which make it slightly acidic. This does not affect the continents or the ocean floor, since these are made of rocks resistant to this specific type of acid, but does dissolve wood in a matter of days and metals in a matter of weeks, making oceanic travel generally impossible. Some rivers also contain acidic waters in their lower courses. Unprotected characters immersed in ocean water take 1 point of damage every 10 minutes, while characters actually drinking it must save against poison (Fortitude save in 3E), taking 3d6 damage in case of a failed save and still 1d4 in case of a save (1d6 primary/secondary Constitution damage or 1 primary Constitution damage, respectively, in 3E). As a general rule, creatures indigenous to Ishtar are immune to this poison (PC races are not indigenous to Ishtar, except lizardmen).
The main races of Ishtar can be divided into three groups:
Humans and their allies: These races originated on Mystara and colonized Ishtar during the Blackmoor age. Besides humans, this group includes dwarves, gnomes, halflings, minotaurs, and orcs. (Actually, minotaurs on Ishtar are descended from cursed humans, whilst orcs, like other humanoids, are descended from beastmen).
Firenewts and their allies/minions: Firenewts from the plane of Fire colonized the continent of Pharodeti long before humans ever came to Ishtar. They also established colonies on the cold (for them) continent of Ishtar: these colonies came into conflict with humans when the latter colonized the planet. Some goblinoid races descended from beastmen were enslaved by firenewts (notably gnolls, trolls, hobgoblins, and ogres). In addition, there is a small number of efreet who are willing allies of the firenewts.
"Neutral" races: this is a rather heterogeneous group, since it comprises both natives of Ishtar and newcomers. The lizardmen (similar to the Malpheggi of the Hollow World, but more civilized) and the tasloi are natives, while the rakasta are recent newcomers. Several other races exist on Ishtar.
Since the planet has no moons, there is a special rule concerning lycanthropy. Some of the humans who colonized Ishtar were lycanthropes, but with no full moon, the curse never manifested itself here. If lycanthropy were a disease, Mystaran lycanthropes could be considered its virulent form, since they tend to live short and violent lives. On Ishtar, on the other hand, lycanthropy remains latent: a lycanthrope could live a long life without ever knowing that they have the ability to transform into a beast. As a result of this, the curse has spread and it is now not uncommon, but normally has no effect on the life of an affected human (as on Mystara, demihumans or goblinoids cannot become lycanthropes). For each human character, the DM should secretly roll percentile dice: a result of 01-20 means that the character is indeed a lycanthrope, but the player should remain unaware of this until some exceptional event triggers the transformation (DM's choice, but only special circumstances should do it, like witnessing a particularly bloody massacre, or naturally traveling to another world with a moon). If using the rules in PC4 Night Howlers, the lycanthrope class shouldn't get any XP until it triggers (with 2E or 3E, the character will gain the appropriate lycanthrope template upon trigger). If a PC is a lycanthrope, roll 1d100 on Table 1 to determine the actual type (subtract 10 if the PC is Lawful, add 10 if the PC is Chaotic).
[TABLE 1: LYCANTHROPIC STRAINS ON ISHTAR]
Alignment – BECMI (AD&D)
Other lycanthropic strains are possible (even were-T-rex, but this strain only affects giants!).
The continent of Ishtar
This continent is located in the northern zone of the planet, across the polar circle (which is located at 66 degrees of latitude). Map 1 shows the continent at the scale of 1 hex = 72 miles: the polar circle is not drawn but is located roughly at the latitude of the volcanoes in the western plateau (Lakkar region). On this line there is the phenomenon of the midnight sun on the day of the summer solstice, while north of it the periods of continual light (and conversely those of continual darkness on the winter solstice) become progressively longer.
Map link on Pandius
The maps show several new types of terrain not found on Mystara, which are explained in the next subsection.
Acidic water: Ocean water hexes (and some river tracts) have this darker shade, which does not indicate depth but means that the water is acidic (see the introduction).
Fungal forest/swamp: These terrain types occur on Mystara only in the Shadowdeep, but here on Ishtar fungi grow to prodigious sizes even on the surface.
Glass desert, rocky: In these areas the ground consists of an expanse of glass, sometimes more or less transparent, but more often opaque. This is not a crystalline substance like that found in Mystara's hollow moon, but rather some silica-containing rock which was erupted by some volcano and cooled rapidly, preventing the formation of crystals. The resulting material is very hard but brittle, so no caverns are possible in these areas. If struck, it breaks easily, forming shards and glassy dust (see Glass desert, sandy). No life can thrive in such an environment, so encountered monsters will always be traveling through the area.
Glass desert, sandy: Where the forces of nature have eroded a patch of rocky glass desert, sandy glass is the result. These areas are generally distant from where they originally formed, since they are easily transported by the wind. The sand itself spans a wide range of sizes, from microscopic dust particles to large shards that will easily cut exposed skin (even halflings are known to wear boots when traveling in these areas). Sandstorms in these areas are extremely deadly. Hardy creatures may make their lair in these zones.
Metal desert, rocky: The world of Ishtar is metal-rich, so finding an open vein of metal is not uncommon. These veins are almost never of precious metals: they generally consist of iron, aluminium, tin, or lead. Since metals conduct heat, these areas are generally very hot during the day and quite cold during the night. No normal creature can live here.
Metal desert, sandy: Powerful forces can sometime grind even metallic terrain to dust. These zones are the result of such transformations. As in the glassy desert, the size of the metal bits can range from fine dust particles (that can find its way everywhere, even polluting food or water) to pebbles and large chunks. These areas are not suitable as lairs except, maybe, for dragons.
Obsidian desert, rocky: Similar to glass desert, with the difference that the glass is jet black here. As such, it absorbs a great quantity of heat, so the temperatures are unbearable during the day (treat it as an Inferno condition). By night the terrain cools slightly, but can still be too hot to touch. Only fire creatures can survive here for long.
Obsidian desert, sandy: Sandy version of the previous terrain, this combines hot temperatures with foot-cutting shards. The main source of worry in these areas will be the terrain itself, not the monsters which will probably be absent.
Treefern forest: These are forests or jungles, where the trees are actually giant varieties of the little treeferns common in other worlds. Aside from the appearance, they are similar to normal forests or jungles and are generally teeming with life (including dinosaurs!).
Map 2 shows in greater detail the northern area of the continent, named the Lathan region from its most powerful nation.
Map link on Pandius
Akbitana: The Padishate of Akbitana is named after its old capital city, but when the original ruling faction was wiped out in a civil war about 200 years ago, the new rulers chose to rule from their base in Mokabbar, and that city became the new capital. The culture of this country is similar to that of Ylaruam on Mystara. The population is mostly composed of humans, but dwarves, gnomes, orcs, and even lizardmen are not uncommon in the two main cities. Akbitana has no allies in the surrounding realms, but no enemies either, since its lands are arid and uninteresting for would-be conquerors.
Åskal: This island in the far north is separated from the mainland by the Stormywater Strait. The ocean bed in this area is rich in metal (mostly iron), and this is the cause of the continual thunderstorms that plague the area. In the center of the strait, a great whirlpool threatens to sink anybody foolish enough to brave the waters (even using wooden boats, the storms and the maelstrøm would destroy them long before acid damage becomes a concern). The island has therefore had no contact with the surrounding lands for centuries, giving rise to a distinct culture: the humans living here are fair-skinned, fair-haired, and more similar to Vikings than to the other humans living in the continent. Unlike Vikings, however, they are land-lubbers, since sea travel is nearly non-existent on Ishtar. Small clans of Mixar dwarves live in the mountains.
Bogton: This halfling city-state claims a portion of the neighboring moor as a "shire", but actually controls only the city. The inhabitants are insular, paranoid, and just want to be left to themselves, maintaining a strict neutrality with the other nations.
Bokambo: This jungle realm is home to the most renowned hunters in the region. Before the unification of the kingdom, the tribes living in this area survived mainly by hunting; when the realm was formed and the level of civilization increased, many citizens turned to agriculture or crafts, but the hunters retained great prestige, and they are still needed when some isolated community is menaced by monsters or famine. Despite Bokambos best efforts, the relations with their neighbors are a source of concern. The lizardmen of Zhaka are aggressive expansionists, and the halflings of Bonko are not to be trusted; with Lathan there is currently a fragile peace, but border incidents are not uncommon. The only true allies of Bokambo are the Zande witches.
Bonko: The "Kingdom" of Bonko is the home of the dark-skinned halflings with the same name. The term "kingdom" is an exaggeration since no village chieftain recognizes any authority higher than his own: the chieftain of Bongo Bongo actually fancies himself as the king of all Bonko halflings, but no other chieftain takes him seriously. The society of these halflings is extremely chaotic (although they are not actually evil as a race), and they don't seem to understand the concept of private property. In their language, the word for "to need" is the same word used for "to take". Like kender from the Dragonlance setting, they tend to "borrow" items they need from others, so they have a reputation as thieves that they don't even understand, since they don't understand private property (but if they are told that a thief is one who takes things, they readily admit that they are thieves, since they do take things whenever they need them). The inhabitants of some villages have been known to eat people they don't like (although they absolutely refuse to eat their own kin): this practice is rare, but has contributed to the negative reactions these halflings get in other realms.
Bushkalari: This vast arid expanse is thinly populated by the Bushkalari people. These diminutive people (subtract 6 inches or 15 centimeters from calculated height for Bushkalari PCs) are adept at survival in their inhospitable lands and live simple lives in close contact with nature. They share territory with another sentient race, the kreen (identical to thri-kreen from Forgotten Realms or Dark Sun settings), which they consider to be emissaries of their god Krensh and obey implicitly (the kreen are generally not concerned with securing the humans' obedience, and they resort to giving orders only in particular situations). Locations where kreen are known to live (or have lived in the past) are considered sacred by the bushmen and defended fiercely against intruders, especially from the Lathan given the colonizing attitude of the white nation. Relations with Kuzuh are much better since the two peoples simply ignore one another.
Crag of the Mokelembembe: This location is generally given a wide berth since it is known to be the lair of a large clan of mokelembembe dragons2. While generally good-natured, they are still dragons and don't appreciate intruders treading on their territory.
Dismaal: This tiny city-state at the corner of Lathan, Bokambo, and Zhaka is a haven for cutthroats, riff-raff and ne'er-do-wells from all over the region. Unlike Kazorak, which accepts all races but maintains a strict internal order, Dismaal is only friendly to normally accepted races (humans, dwarves, halflings, minotaurs, and orcs, with the occasional rakasta or centaur) and doesn't even try to enforce respect of the law: even worse, no law is recognized here, so the strongest get away with what they want and the weak usually end up dead. If you can brave the danger, this is the best spot to find assassins for hire, slaves, and illegal goods.
Gnoll Horde: In this area live the majority of the gnolls in the continent of Ishtar, a force of chaos that destabilizes the entire region. Unlike those found in southern regions, these gnolls appear to have little or no contact with the firenewts, but it is rumoured that their leaders are in league with fiends, and these "fiends" may actually be the firenewt leaders. The border with Kishanti is especially fortified on both sides, and the gnolls are currently preparing a great invasion.
Jitusoland: The Jituso are a subrace of humans known for their great stature. They are like other humans in all aspects, except that their height is 195+5d6 cm (78+4d3 inches if you are using Imperial units). Their weight is normal for humans, so they generally have a very slim appearance. In game terms they are like normal humans, but with a +1 bonus to Strength and a -1 penalty to Constitution (+2 and -2, respectively, if using 3E rules; for BECMI, Strength cannot exceed 18, while for 2E the bonus should be applied after possibly rolling exceptional Strength, so 18 becomes 18/50, 18/50 becomes 18/75, etc. – only a natural 18/00 actually becomes 19). Their society is unsophisticated but by no means primitive: they are very good at herding animals and have a surprisingly high percentage of spellcasters, both sorcerers and clerics/druids. Jituso is allied with Na-Mornu due to necessity, since all other borders are with hostile creatures.
Kazorak: This small city-state at the confluence of the Bisch and Kazorak rivers is a community where members of every race are welcome, as long as they do not disturb the delicate balance. Here you can find hobgoblins living near dwarves or ogres sharing courtyard space with gnomes. Many humanoids unwelcome in neighboring lands can find a safe haven here, from which they can raid Lathan or Kuzuh lands with impunity: the enclave is in fact completely surrounded by Bushkalari territory, and the bushmen discourage open passage through their lands by foreign armed bands so retaliation is unlikely (the Kazorak goblinoids make sure to cross Bushkalari lands by night and out of sight).
Kishanti: This realm is on the verge of civil war. The ruling family's power is waning and their popularity is low, even if their rule isn't particularly harsh. The only things that keep them on the throne for now are the support of the army (Kishanti cavalry is considered the finest in the world) and the loyalty of the citizens of the capital Kiboko: in the other towns, especially in the north, the rebellion is open, kindled by agents of the opposition. The leader of the opposition has not yet revealed himself, but is said to be allied with the gnolls in the north; those supporting the change of government are probably being manipulated or blackmailed, so the situation is very chaotic. This isn't a novelty for this realm, though, as its history is full of revolutions, coups, and regime changes. The current ruling dynasty has held the throne for 100 years, which is a record. In case the war actually breaks, Na-Mornu and maybe Kuzuh will intervene to aid the legitimate government, the gnolls will aid the rebels, and the actions of Akbitana can not be predicted at the moment.
Kuzuh: The Kingdom of Kuzuh is notorious for its war elephants. Pachyderms are very common in this region (nearly all savannah, with good grazing territories) and are used for a variety of tasks, ranging from construction (in the great city of Pembe, magnificent buildings too tall to be true have been built with elephant-moved cranes) to transportation (elephant caravans are a common sight on most roads and trails), from agriculture to war. Kuzuhites are loosely allied with Na-Mornu and neutral towards Bushkalari and Akbitana, but wary of the expansionist Zhaka lizardmen, to the point that they have erected a wall of elephant tusks on the border to discourage aggression.
Lathan: Unlike its neighbors, this large and powerful kingdom is inhabited by light-skinned humans (although they are often tanned due to life in the open) similar to the inhabitants of Karameikos or Thyatis on Mystara (many of their names are similar to those found in the Isle of Dawn, suggesting a common origin). They are descendants of the original dominant population of colonizers coming from Mystara before the Great Rain of Fire. Their kingdom is large and thriving, although in the largest cities corruption runs rampant and the power is often in the hands of thieves' guilds or secret cabals. Demihumans and goblinoids (limited to orcs and minotaurs) are relatively common here compared to other lands: orcs are generally considered inferior people but tolerated, while minotaurs are valued for their fighting skills and often find work as mercenaries. The relations with neighboring lands are very variable since some nobles are peaceful and open-minded, while others see any culture different from theirs as inferior and are likely to attack foreign communities to raid or get slaves.
Manticore's Nest: A stretch of unclaimed territory. The ruins in the middle of the cactus shrub are rumored to host several manticores that roam the surrounding area.
Mud-Men Territories: This area is actually a wilderland, with no community extending control beyond the immediate proximity of a village. The most common inhabitants are mud-men (there are other villages besides those marked on the map, but their location is unknown), but the western woods teem with spiders and even host a tiny community of aranea.
Na-Mornu: The Kingdom of Na-Mornu may be the most civilized nation in the region. The humans of Na-Mornu are black-skinned and tall (but not as tall as the Jituso), have built great cities and roads, and are renowned all across Ishtar for their mounts, both horses and zebras. Horses come in every variety and are ubiquitous, but the sign of distinction in this country is the zebra. Normally more similar to a donkey than to a horse, in the hands of one of the expert Na-Mornu trainers a zebra can become a superb mount (treat as a heavy warhorse). The fascination with zebras permeates every aspect of Na-Mornu life: even the clothes of the people tend to be most often black and white. Na-Mornu horsemen are the best on Ishtar, with the possible exception of the Kishanti. Yet while nearly everyone can ride a horse (they often learn to ride before learning to walk), only the knights of the realm can ride zebras. The knights are an elite force (they wear chain mail, virtually unknown in other realms since the omnipresent heat forces warriors to wear lighter armor) and are highly respected everywhere. The stability of Na-Mornu owes much to them: no foreign army has ever won a battle against them on Na-Mornu ground. The society is very Lawful and follows a code of chivalry. Horse theft is punished with loss of a hand, while zebra theft is punished with death. Na-Mornu acts more or less as the regional power in the western area of the greater Lathan region (in the eastern area, obviously, this role is taken by Lathan) and has good relations with its neighbors (except Zhaka), but a cold distant relation with Lathan.
N'Dazza: These tasloi are more civilized than usual for their kind. They have copied some behaviour and customs from humans and halflings and are as likely to raid their neighbors as they are to trade peacefully with them. They are even known to launch expeditions deep into the southern wetlands on behalf of the Zande witches to procure rare spell components.
Pride Lands: This is an area interdicted to humanoids and populated by large herds of animals, including predators like lions and leopards. It is rumored that the most powerful specimens of these animals are actually sentient and act as leaders for their kind, but no one can confirm or deny these rumors since intruders are attacked on sight and eaten.
Zande: This great city is built atop a high plateau with smooth vertical cliffs (rumoured to have been created with powerful magic). The vast majority of its population is composed of spellcasters (mainly sorcerers and wizards, but all spellcasting classes are represented; if you use psionics, psionic classes are present as well). The rules of citizenship are very simple, and Zande residents often boast that their city-state is very democratic: anyone who is able to climb the plateau by any means can apply for citizenship. This of course includes spellcasters with access to spells like fly or levitate, but any character with a flying carpet or flying vessel (or the ability to sneak aboard one) can apply. Even the political system is very simple: access to public offices is open to anyone who wishes it (in fact this only applies to powerful sorcerers or wizards with access to the wish spell). The city is also home to the Zande witches, a powerful cabal of female sorceresses with the mission of eradicating users of prohibited magic wherever they find them (their concept of "prohibited" magic includes necromantic magic related to undead, demon summoning, and other inherently chaotic magic: evilness is not a factor, since this is Mystaraspace, after all, and the main conflict is Law-Chaos, not Good-Evil).
Zhaka: The empire of the lizardmen. They are surprisingly civilized, using even metal weapons and armor, and their capital is said to be a jewel of architecture. However, they are exceedingly warlike, viewing all other races as inferior (and potential food). They are generally in a state of war with all their neighbors: sometimes one of them manages to secure a peace treaty, but such agreements are temporary at best since the slightest incident can enrage the lizardmen and return to a war condition.
This section describes briefly the other areas shown in Map 1.
Aknar: These hills are home to the Aknar, one of the three subraces of Ishtarian dwarves. They share the love for work and riches with their cousins, the Mixar, but they are more open toward other races, viewing them as potential customers to be befriended. In fact, many of them take this concept to an extreme, viewing other races as potential victims to be robbed or swindled. Their neutrality in foreign relations (and alignment) and dedication to trade have made them a mercantile power: even those who don't actually trust them (i.e. everyone else) are willing to trade with them, as long as they believe they are getting an advantage (which is generally not true, but the dwarves won't tell you).
Badu and Kril: These two minor islands north of Nekoshima are mostly covered by jungle. Badu is home to a small population of wild gnomes, while Kril is home to a large green dragon.
Blackhome Halflings: This territory is named after the huge obsidian waste in its center. The halflings obviously don't live in the obsidian, but in the hills and mountains around it, and due to proximity to Mixar dwarves (and the hardships of life in this inhospitable area) the halflings have adopted an outlook similar to the dwarves. Instead of outgoing and jolly like other halflings, they tend to be dour, gruff and isolationist.
Chirash: An arid region on the southwestern coast just across Nekoshima, Chirash is the place where the peaceful inhabitants of Siyapur exile criminals and other undesirable characters. At first the exiles fought among themselves for the scarce resources, but then they learned to cooperate to better survive the adversities, giving birth to a peculiar society that mixes strict laws with anarchy. In Chirash it is acceptable to kill other people for a trivial slight, but theft of food or water is a crime of the utmost gravity.
Dark Jungle: A large valley covered with heavy jungles, where few dare to tread since the region is home to powerful monsters, including sentient apes (if the DM uses psionics, su-monsters are present as well).
Hula-Hoa and Gway: These two minor islands east of Nekoshima are inhabited by peaceful humans, but the western island (Gway) has been conquered by a minor clan of Nekoshiman rakastas who have enslaved most of the natives forcing them to mine gems, of which the island is particularly rich.
Lakkar: This plateau in the western portion of Ishtar is dominated by the great civilization of the Lakkar dwarves. Unlike the other dwarven subraces, the Lakkar dwarves live mostly on the surface of the plateau. Their realm is dominated by the priests, who rule with an iron fist over the rest of the population. Their culture resembles that of the humans of Thothia on Mystara (or Nithia in the Hollow World), including the pyramids and a morbid fascination with death. In Lakkar lands, undeath is seen simply as another stage of life, so the use of undead guardians or servants is widespread. The worship of entropic Immortals is present, but is still illegal and does not dominate the society.
Mixar Dwarves: These dwarves are similar to normal dwarves of the Known World. Their realm is large and sparsely populated, but fiercely defended when necessary (the ogres to the south periodically try an invasion but are regularly rebuffed). Here are located the highest peaks of Ishtar (more than 10,000 m above sea level), including the only glacier of the planet.
Nekoshima: This large island has been settled by rakastas from the Mystaran moon of Myoshima. The cat people are the only nation on Ishtar that possesses skyships and have frequent contact with their original world, but for now they have not tried to conquer the rest of the continent, content to make border skirmishes among the domains of the various daimyos. The territory is extremely volcanic (due to the large scale of the map, each "volcano" hex is actually a volcanic region where even dozens of individual volcanoes can lie), which has forced the rakastas to build most of their homes with wood and paper only, to facilitate reconstruction in case of a violent eruption or an earthquake.
Nikolovskaja: The Tsardom of Nikolovskaja is allied with the Mixar dwarves to the east and trades freely with the Aknar dwarves to the west, and as such acts as a buffer between the two dwarven nations, who don't like each other very much. The realm is not very large but has very rich mineral deposits.
Panggas: A region of rich grasslands on the western coast, Panggas is inhabited by fierce orc tribes that survive by hunting the plentiful wild animals. Their number is kept low because they continually war amongst themselves.
Psilea: This grasslands region near the delta of the Psi River is peculiar because most of the people living here possess latent psionic powers (if you don't use psionics in your campaign, just select one random 1st-level spell for each PC or NPC native of Psilea: this spell can be cast once per day as a spell-like ability). The realm is quite civilized but warlike, loving the fine arts as well as the martial arts.
Republic of Free Men: The name of this country is quite misleading, since it can make you think that only humans are welcome here. In fact, there are no race restrictions: nonhumans are present too, although in small numbers. The peculiarity of the Republic is its government system, or lack thereof. The only limit to individual freedom is that you cannot use it against someone else. When there is controversy, it is settled by wise people whose judgement is generally accepted, or as a last resort, by public vote. There are no rulers, only administrators who manage public resources for the common good. As simplistic as it can look, it works here. The population is composed of people who fled other nations in search of more freedom (and their descendants).
Ruuva: A large island off the extreme northwestern tip of the continent, Ruuva extends north nearly to the pole and is part of an archipelago that extends to Åskal in the Lathan region. The northern islands have a cooler climate than the continent, but are sparsely inhabited since the polar region is said to be haunted.
Sahuagin Empire: These evil aquatic humanoids are indigenous to Ishtar and thus immune to corrosion by the ocean water. They have a vast empire in the depths of the sea, but have little or no contact with other societies, except when they come out of the sea to raid the lands of Lathan or Bokambo (this explains why these kingdoms maintain watchtowers and keeps near the sea).
Sea Hag's Island: According to legends this tiny remote island is the lair of a powerful hag who has the power to move it around as if it were a ship, and thus raids the coasts of the continent with her small but powerful army of monsters. No one remembers the last time she was seen, though, so this could indeed be only a legend.
Siyapur: A powerful kingdom in the southwestern region of Ishtar, Siyapur has a society similar to Sind on Mystara. There is a considerable population of demihumans and humanoids, but little contact among them, since the races have the same role in Siyapuri society that the castes have in Sind. The order from the highest race to the lowest is as follows: humans, dwarves, gnomes, minotaurs, and orcs (strangely the same as in the unrelated society of Lathan, although in the latter these are only social classes and contact is not forbidden).
Yad Thamin: This desert realm exists only because of the cooperation of djinns. The air genies are staunch allies of the sultan and of the court archmage Balthazar, and have helped build great cities in one of the most arid lands of Ishtar. The sultanate is a model of enlightenment and tolerance, but it too has internal conflict since there are factions that are opposed to the rule of the current sultan.
L. Richard Baker, III, DSR4 Valley of Dust and Fire, p. 30.
Brady English, An African Genesis, in Dragon Magazine 191, pp. 32-35.
David Howery, The Dark Continent, in Dragon Magazine 189, pp. 10-18.
Thomas M. Kane, Think Big, in Dragon Magazine 177, pp. 97.
Michael J. Varhola, Arms & Armor of Africa, in Dragon Magazine 189, pp. 20-26.
Michael J. Wybo, II, Unique Unicorns, in Dragon Magazine 190, pp. 90-94.
Michael J. Wybo, II, Real Warriors Ride Elephants, in Dragon Magazine 195, pp. 26-30.
Michael J. Wybo, II, Magic from the Gods, in Dragon Magazine 200, pp. 14-18.
Michael J. Wybo, II, Mythic Races of Africa, in Dragon Magazine 202, pp. 46-51.
Michael J. Wybo, II, The Priests of Africa, in Dragon Magazine 209, pp. 16-20.
Michael J. Wybo, II, The Deities of Africa, in Dragon Magazine 215, pp. 48-53.
1[Editor’s note] Only the continent of Ishtar is detailed within the scope of this article.
2[Editor’s note] Mokelembembe dragons will be described in an upcoming issue of Threshold. Look for continuing article of The World Ishtar!