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Years of Fire Campaignby Håvard Faanes
The Years of Fire Campaign setting describes the years following the Great Rain of Fire and the destruction of the Blackmoor Civilisation. This is an ideal period for running a post-apocalyptic game.
The Blackmoor Civilisation is completely wiped out, the planet's axis has shifted and new continents have formed. By now the continents have settled, but the climate is continually changing due to the planet's new axis. Blackmoor itself, the heart of the Blackmoor Civilisation is lost under the polar ice. Most of the remains of Blackmoor are now gone, but artifacts and advanced weapons and even vehicles from that civilisation is much more common than in later years.
Already Blackmoor is becoming something of a myth, and the few scattered survivors try to forget the horrors of the even now known as The Great Rain of Fire.
People are slowly beginning to revert back to their original cultures. This is a strange phenomenon. The various peoples, who have been assimilated by the culture of Blackmoor, now find themselves returning to ancient customs of their ancestral past such as the Skandaharians, Peshwah, Valemen and even a few Afridhi.
The reasons for this reversion are unknown. It may simply be that cultural heritage is so strong, perhaps even genetically connected. Another explanation, may be immortal intervention, either direct interference with the development of the survivors cultures, or perhaps indirect, as a defence mechanism that was built into the minds of the peoples in case of a breakdown of civilisation. Later, these cultures will develop and change again, as the descendants from the Peshwah gradually become the Ethengars and the Jennites, the descendants of the Valemen become the Littonians and the Skandaharians become Antalians. At this stage, however, the scattered refugees of Blackmoor haven't even fully reverted to their original cultures; they are merely a stage in-between.
Technology is often blamed for the Great Rain of Fire and is often distrusted. Some simply don't use atomic-powered devices, others try to refrain from using technology altogether. If you want Mad Max type adventures, you can have cars and motorcycles and even the occasional laser rifle. However, fuel, energy chips and bullets cannot be manufactured at this stage, so they gotta be saved. Many devices are now increasingly unstable as well, like the ones the Shadowelves later blow up in the Glantri area.
Mutants and Monsters
Of course, you gotta have Mutants in post-apocalyptic settings! Mutants gang together with Beastman races (Orcs, Goblins etc) and prey upon small groups of humans who try to gather enough resources to survive.
Lightning Zombies (From WotI) are much more common in this age due to the radiation, as are other radioactive undead (Radiation Spectres, Atomic Wraiths etc...) Many other monsters emerge in this age, no longer curbed by any human civilisation. Dragons, Chimeric monsters, Owlbears, Hydras are plentiful.
Elves and halflings follow the pattern of humans, those who survive try to return to their old ways. Dwarves are on the verge of extinction and are believed to be lost in this age, with the exception of a few unique individuals searching for their lost race. (The dwarves are not gone, however, simply spirited away by Kagyar for remodelling. He will return them to Mystara later on).
Magic has always been around on Mystara. However, when Blackmoor was wiped out, the Great Magic Academies were destroyed and most arcane knowledge was lost.
Individual wizard hermits must be sought out to learn wizardry. Due to the strong presence of radiation and mutations, Sorcerers are much more common in the Years of Fire. However true arcane knowledge was greatly reduced and isn't restored to its former level until the founding of Taymor and Nithia. (In fact modern Mystaran knowledge is mainly based on Alphatian magic and whatever survived of Nithian wizardry.)
Due to secularisation in the Blackmoor era, many immortals had been nearly forgotten even before the fall of Blackmoor, and the chaos that followed, caused the disappearance of many cults. Several immortals faded because of this. (This explains why many immortals of Blackmoor, including many of those that may be introduced in the upcoming D20 Blackmoor products are not around anymore in modern Mystara.) However, those cults who survived begin bringing the message of hope and faith into a desolate and broken world. Sadly though, few temples exist and Clerics lack organisation and training and Clerical magic is also no longer as powerful as it used to be.
According to the Ethengar Gazetteer, it was the Blackmoor incident that called the spirits of the Otherworld to Mystara. More likely, it seems that it was the despair and the search for powers to worship that drew these extraplanar creatures, including more fairies to Mystara. Shamans flourish in the Years of Fire.
Protecting the Community
Survival could be an adventure on its own. Whether the PCs are a small group trying to make it on their own, or whether they are part of a larger group; trying to find enough food, avoid radiation, find medicines to cure sickness and plague, and fighting off Mutant and Humanoid raiders can be an adventure of its own. The style of the game may vary from more or less standard D&D-style to more Mad Max meets Gamma World style, depending on how much apocalyptic stuff the GM wants to include.
Search for the Past
The Great Rain of Fire and Blackmoor are becoming myths. What happened to Blackmoor? Was it experiments of combining magic and technology that caused its destruction? Was it internal war (as detailed in Mystaros' Timeline)? Was it an act of magical terrorism? Or was it a long-term plot by the powers of Entropy, perhaps Thanatos' greatest achievement? A campaign can be centred around searching for knowledge about the past, perhaps it is also related to the origins of the PCs?
Search for Magic
Magic is weak in this age. The potential is there, but so much knowledge has been lost. Rediscovering magic, finding new Immortals to worship, building new temples and new magical academies could be another focus for a campaign, easily combined with the two above.