Mystara is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role playing game. It was the default setting for the "Basic" version of the game throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Most adventures published for the "Basic" edition of D&D take place in "The Known World", a central continent that includes a varied patchwork of both human and non-human realms. The human realms are based on various real-world historical cultures. In addition, unlike other D&D settings, Mystara had ascended immortal beings instead of gods.

The Mystara planet also has sub-settings. The older Blackmoor setting was retconned to exist in Mystara's distant past. The Hollow World refers to the inner surface contained within the world of Mystara, similar to the real world legends of the Hollow Earth, while some adventures take place on the Savage Coast, a 2,000 mile long frontier coastline about 2,000 miles to the west of the Known World.

By the mid-1990s, gamers' attention started to shift towards the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and its official campaigns. Some Mystara adventures for AD&D were published between 1994 and 1996. Eventually, official support of the Mystara setting was discontinued by the time the game's third edition was released in 2000.

Development[edit | edit source]

Mystara originated as a fantasy world developed by Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay for their own Dungeons & Dragons game sessions from 1974 to 1976. Their original setting consisted of a large continent with fictionalized nations that were based on real-world historical cultures. Inspired by author H. P. Lovecraft and his work in creating a fiction shared universe, Schick and Moldvay named their setting as the "Known World" so it could be expanded upon by other players. Schick then went to work at TSR Hobbies as a designer for D&D and other games. After being promoted to director of the Design Department he brought Moldvay in to join the company as a game designer, around the time when the D&D Expert Set was under development. After being told that they could not use the existing Greyhawk setting, as it was being reserved for only Advanced Dungeons & Dragons products, Schick and Moldvay got approval to instead use their "Known World" as the standard D&D campaign setting.[1]

Schick and Moldvay's "Known World" was used as a semi-generic setting in early adventure modules, first mentioned in Module X1, The Isle of Dread.[2] It was then expanded upon in various D&D modules and sources, particularly a series of Gazetteers, many of which originally referred to the setting as "The D&D Game World".

Each part of the D&D Gazetteer series treats one nation or empire, and has three basic elements: cultural and geographic background, features, and adventures. The cultural and geographic campaign background section offers a brief history and timeline for each nation; basic geography, climate, and ecology; and, fundamental social and political concepts of the region. Each Gazetteer also offers a list of scenario ideas appropriate to the campaign setting.[3]

Trenton Webb for the British Arcane RPG magazine described Mystara as "a traditional Tolkienesque world".[4]

Mystara Planet[edit | edit source]

Mystara's outer surface consists of three principal land masses: the continent of Brun, the continent of Skothar, and the continent of Davania, plus the island continent of Alphatia (up to AC 1010). In the officially published material, the Known World concentrated on the eastern portion of Brun along with the lands of the Sea of Dawn. The continents of Mystara resemble those of the earth approximately 135 million years ago.

The inhabitants of Mystara are diverse: humans of all races can be found here, along with myriad creatures such as elves, dwarves, halflings, orcs, and dragons.[5]

Some of the notable nations of Mystara include the Thyatian Empire, the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, the Principalities of Glantri, the merchant-run Republic of Darokin, the Emirates of Ylaruam, the Dwarven nation of Rockhome, the Elven Kingdom of Alfheim, Halfling lands of the Five Shires[5] and the chaotic Alphatian Empire.[6]

The continent of Brun[edit | edit source]

The most commonly known land mass on Mystara's outer surface is actually a tiny portion of the continent of Brun itself. In the officially published material, the Known World concentrated on the eastern portion of Brun along with the islands of the Sea of Dawn.[5]

The Known World[edit | edit source]

The Known World has cultures and a level of technological development that resemble Europe around the 15th century, but without gunpowder. Nations of the known world display a great range of government types. Some nations are populated entirely by demihumans and/or humanoids. By common convention, the boundaries of the "Known World" are those covered in the world map as originally published in the module X1, The Isle of Dread,[5] plus Norwold, the Isle of Dawn, and (pre Wrath of the Immortals) Alphatia.[6]

As the name implies, the "Known World" covers the most notable nations of Mystara, the ones most commonly used in Mystara-based campaigns and featured in fiction. It includes the Thyatian Empire, which could be compared to the Byzantine Empire; the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (which includes the town of Threshold, the default setting of many classic D&D adventures), comparable to medieval southeastern Europe; the Principalities of Glantri, which is similar to medieval western Europe, ruled by wizard-princes; the Ethengar Khanate, a Mongol-like society; the merchant-run Republic of Darokin, which is based somewhat loosely on the mercantile states of Medieval Italy; the Emirates of Ylaruam which have an Arabic flavor; the Heldannic Territories, ruled by an order of religious Knights devoted to the Immortal Vanya, similar to the Teutonic Knights; the Atruaghin Clans, which have an Amerindian feel; the nation of Sind, based on India during the rule of the Mughals; the Northern Reaches Kingdoms of Ostland, Vestland, the Soderfjord Jarldoms, based on Scandinavian kingdoms at various periods of history; the Dwarven nation of Rockhome; the elven Kingdom of Alfheim; the Halfling lands of the Five Shires;[5] and the Alphatian Empire, ruled by wizards and other spellcasters.[6]

To the distant Northwest of the "Known World", across the Great Waste, lies the mysterious lands of Hule, ruled by Hosadus, also known as "The Master". Also on the periphery of the Known World are the Kingdoms of Wendar[5] and Denagoth, the first an elven-dominated nation and the latter a mountainous and dark realm of evil, with ill-intentions towards Wendar. The Adri Varma lies between Sind, Wendar, the Great Waste, and The Black Mountains, forming the northern border of Glantri and defining the northwestern limits of the region.

The Savage Coast[edit | edit source]

Mystara includes the Savage Coast, a coastal area located in the south central part of the Brun continent, to the south and west of Hule. This part of Mystara is affected by the Red Curse, a sinister enchantment which eventually kills its inhabitants through mutation unless the (fictional) metal cinnabryl is worn in contact with the body. This area was published in its own boxed set entitled Red Steel, and later republished on-line as the Savage Coast. Its swashbuckling flavor is very different from that of the "Known World", closer in atmosphere to that of the Age of Exploration than the fantasy middle-ages/renaissance tone of the Known World. The Savage Coast is complete with gunpowder ("Smokepowder") weaponry.[7][8]

The specifics of the "Red Curse", which include mutilation of the body and extreme degeneration of physical and mental health, also tend to keep the inhabitants of the Savage Coast within the region, as debilitating effects result if they leave the cursed area.[7][8]

The continent of Davania[edit | edit source]

Even though most of the Known World civilizations historically originated from this part of the planet, it did not see much development while the Mystara product line was still in production. The only major appearance of the continent was in Dragon magazine, where parts of it were sketched out during the Voyage of the Princess Ark series, by Known World Product Manager Bruce Heard.

In recent years, many Mystara fans have been turning their attention to Davania with fan-made material.

The continent of Skothar[edit | edit source]

Very little was officially developed for this part of Mystara. Ever since the Mystara product line was discontinued, fans have created their own material for this part of Mystara.

The Hollow World[edit | edit source]

Main article: Hollow World

Mystara is a hollow planet, with a habitable surface on its interior called the Hollow World.[5] This world is lit by an eternal red sun at the center of Mystara, and serves as a "cultural museum," preserving the societies that have become extinct in the outer world. The existence of the Hollow World is not, in general, known to the inhabitants of the outer world. The poles are actually huge, subtly curving holes that allow passage between the outer and inner world, although it is a long, hard trek through a cold, unlit, stormy and anti-magic area. The curvature of the holes is so subtle that explorers from either surface do not notice the transition until after it is already made, causing quite a shock for most.

Moons[edit | edit source]

Two moons orbit the planet. Matera is a moon much like our own, whose phases govern lycanthropy (werewolves, werebears, etc.).[5] Only the Immortals inhabit Matera. They live in a city, Pandius, where they can meet and watch over Mystara. Patera, or Myoshima to its inhabitants, is an invisible moon that cannot be seen from Mystara. Patera's inhabitants have a culture similar to that of medieval Japan.

Blackmoor[edit | edit source]

Mystara (like Greyhawk) also incorporated the Blackmoor setting by placing it in the world's distant past. Blackmoor evolved from a feudal kingdom into a highly advanced civilization, using more and more powerful – and destructive — technology. It ended itself in an apocalyptic explosion so devastating that it changed the climate and geography of the planet as a whole.

Mystara video games[edit | edit source]

Template:Timeline of release years

Five video games were set in Mystara, and they span three different genres. Order of the Griffon (TurboGrafx 16, 1992) and Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun (Sega Genesis, 1992) are role-playing video games. Fantasy Empires (PC, 1993) is a strategy game. The plots and development teams of these games are unrelated.

Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (1993) and Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara (1996) are two arcade beat 'em up with minimal role-playing elements. These two games are among the few D&D video games developed by a Japanese company, in this case by Capcom. The second game is the sequel of the first one.

Novels[edit | edit source]

First Quest[edit | edit source]

Dragonlord Chronicles[edit | edit source]

Penhaligon Trilogy[edit | edit source]

Source material[edit | edit source]

Template:Expand list

Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks[edit | edit source]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
Expert Set David Cook (1981 version)
Frank Mentzer (1983 version)
The Grand Duchy of Karameikos is presented as a sample wilderness adventure area.
Companion Set Frank Mentzer 1984 The Dungeon Master's Companion book contains mini-scenarios, some of which are explicitly set in Mystara.[10]
Rules Cyclopedia Aaron Allston 1991 Includes an appendix describing the Mystara setting.
Wrath of the Immortals Aaron Allston 1992 The Codex of the Immortals rulebook includes a chapter describing all the immortal NPCs in Mystara. The Immortals' Fury campaign adventure saga is set in Mystara.

Notable adventure modules[edit | edit source]

Code Title Levels Author(s) Published Notes
X1 The Isle of Dread 3–7 David Cook
Tom Moldvay
1981 Introduces the Known World, the most notable nations of Mystara, and the Sea of Dread and the Thanegioth Archipelago to the south.
X4 Master of the Desert Nomads 6–9 David Cook 1983 Expands the world to the west with the introduction of the Sind Desert and the Great Waste.
X5 Temple of Death 6–10 David Cook 1983 Introduces the land of Hule, further expanding the world to the west.
X6 Quagmire! 4–10 Merle M. Rasmussen 1984 First adventure in the Serpent Peninsula, south of Sind.
CM1 Test of the Warlords 15+ Douglas Niles 1984 First major adventure in the land of Norwold, northeast of the most notable nations.
X9 The Savage Coast 4–10 Merle M. Rasmussen
Jackie Rasmussen
Anne C. Gray
1985 Introduces the Savage Coast, southwest of Hule.
X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield 10–14 Michael S. Dobson 1985 The politics of the most notable nations and areas of the Known World are further expanded in this adventure.
X11 Saga of the Shadow Lord 5–9 Stephen Bourne 1986 Introduces the Kingdoms of Wendar and Denagoth, north of the most notable nations.
M5 Talons of Night 20–25 Paul Jaquays 1987 Adventure in the Isle of Dawn, within the Alphatian Empire.

Dungeons & Dragons Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Aaron Allston 1987  
GAZ2 The Emirates of Ylaruam Ken Rolston 1987  
GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri Bruce Heard 1987  
GAZ4 The Kingdom of Ierendi Anne Gray McCready 1987  
GAZ5 The Elves of Alfheim Steve Perrin 1988  
GAZ6 The Dwarves of Rockhome Aaron Allston 1988  
GAZ7 The Northern Reaches Ken Rolston 1988  
GAZ8 The Five Shires Ed Greenwood 1988  
GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds Deborah Christian
Kim Eastland
GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar Bruce Heard 1988 Includes Orc Wars boardgame
GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin Scott Haring 1989  
GAZ12 The Golden Khan of Ethengar Jim Bambra 1989  
Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia Aaron Allston 1989 Boxed set; includes AD&D 2nd Edition conversion
GAZ13 The Shadow Elves Carl Sargent
Gary Thomas
GAZ14 The Atruaghin Clans William W. Connors 1991  

Dungeons & Dragons Trail Maps[edit | edit source]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
TM1 Western Countries Trail Map 1989  
TM2 Eastern Countries Trail Map 1989  

Dungeons & Dragons Creature Crucible[edit | edit source]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk John Nephew 1989  
PC2 Top Ballista Carl Sargent 1989  
PC3 The Sea People Jim Bambra 1990  
PC4 Night Howlers Ann Dupuis 1992 Adaptable to AD&D 2nd Edition

Dungeons & Dragons Hollow World[edit | edit source]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
Hollow World Campaign Set Aaron Allston 1990 Boxed Set
HWR1 Sons of Azca John Nephew 1991 Accessory
HWR2 Kingdom of Nithia Blake Mobley, Newton Ewell 1991 Accessory
HWR3 The Milenian Empire Anthony Herring 1992 Accessory
HWA1 Nightwail Allen Varney 1990 Adventure
HWA2 Nightrage Allen Varney 1990 Adventure
HWA3 Nightstorm Allen Varney 1991 Adventure
HWQ1 The Milenian Scepter Anthony Herring 1992 Adventure

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Mystara[edit | edit source]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
TSR 2500 Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure Jeff Grubb, Aaron Allston, Thomas M. Reid 1994 Boxed Set
TSR 2511 Glantri: Kingdom of Magic Monte Cook, Bruce A. Heard 1995 Boxed Set
TSR 2502 Hail the Heroes Tim Beach 1994 Adventure Boxed Set
TSR 2509 Night of the Vampire L. Richard Baker III 1994 Adventure Boxed Set
TSR 2513 Mark of Amber Aaron Allston, Jeff Grubb and John D. Rateliff 1995 Adventure Boxed Set
TSR 2510 Player's Survival Kit John D. Rateliff 1995 Accessory
TSR 2512 Dungeon Master Survival Kit Steven Schend 1995 Accessory
TSR 2506 Poor Wizard's Almanac III & Books of Facts Ann Dupuis 1994 Accessory
TSR 2517 Joshuan's Almanac & Book of Facts Ann Dupuis, Elizabeth Tornabene 1995 Accessory
Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix John Nephew, John Terra, Skip Williams, Teeuwynn Woodruff 1994 Accessory

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Red Steel[edit | edit source]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
TSR 2504 Red Steel Campaign Expansion Tim Beach 1994 Accessory & Boxed Set
TSR 9500 Savage Baronies Tim Beach 1995 Accessory & Adventure

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Odyssey: Savage Coast[edit | edit source]

Code Title Author(s) Published Notes
Savage Coast Campaign Book Tim Beach, Bruce Heard 1996 Accessory
Savage Coast: Orc's Head Nicky Rea 1996 Accessory
Savage Coast Monstrous Compendium Appendix Loren L. Coleman, Ted James, Thomas Zuvich 1996 Accessory

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Black Gate » Articles » The "Known World" D&D Setting: A Secret History". Retrieved on 27 March 2018
  2. David Cook (1981). The Isle of Dread. TSR, Inc.. ISBN 0-935696-30-X
  3. Ken Rolston (January 1988). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon (#129): 83–84. TSR, Inc.
  4. Trenton Webb (March 1996). "Games Reviews". Arcane (4): 70. Future Publishing
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Jeff Grubb (1994). Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure. TSR, Inc.. ISBN 1-56076-853-3
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Aaron Allston (1989). Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia. TSR, Inc.. ISBN 0-88038-736-X
  7. 7.0 7.1 Tim Beach (1994). Red Steel Campaign Expansion. TSR, Inc.. ISBN 1-56076-895-9
  8. 8.0 8.1 Tim Beach (1996). Savage Coast Campaign Book. TSR, Inc.. ISBN 0-7869-0379-1
  9. Stephen Kenson (March 1999). "Profiles: J. Robert King". Dragon (#257). Wizards of the Coast
  10. Mentzer, Frank. Dungeons & Dragons Set 3: Companion Rules (TSR, 1984)

External links[edit | edit source]

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