An Overview of Mystara

May I present Bruce Heard’s Mystara Facebook Fanpage description in its entirety, with a complete background of the setting and list of products (from wikipedia) detailing and expanding upon this incredible and diverse game setting. I wanted to make this information available to my players and all fans of the setting without them having to sign up for a Facebook account. I did not create any of this and have kept all the links and original content present (although I did move the links to the bottom of the article and kept the setting info at the top).
Please check out Bruce Heard’s current projects at http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/

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Mystara Known World map by Thorfinn Tait http://mystara.thorfmaps.com

Mystara

General Information

Founded in 1980, Mystara is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role playing game. Although it has officially been dropped from production by its creators, many fans continue to develop and evolve this fantasy setting jointly, continuing its original theme of group development.

Development

Mystara originated as the Known World, a semi-generic setting used in early adventure modules, first mentioned in the Module X1, Isle of Dread, which was expanded upon in various D&D modules and sources, particularly a series of Gazeteers.

Mystara began as several semi-independent projects by different teams of writers who were each assigned to the task of developing different cultures and nations that would exist in the fantasy world that was supported by Dungeons & Dragons at the time. Their work was gathered and compiled, blended, and combined to form a fantasy world, Mystara.

The D&D Gazetteer series details the game’s Known World setting. Each Gazetteer 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.

Mystara Planet

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.

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 and the chaotic Alphatian Empire.

The continent of Brun

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 lands of the Sea of Dawn.

The Known World

The Known World has cultures and a level of technological development that resemble the Europe of our Earth 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, plus Norwold, the Isle of Dawn, and (pre Wrath of the Immortals) Alphatia.

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 (both officially published “canon” and fan-based). It includes the Thyatian Empire, which could be compared to 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; and the Alphatian Empire, ruled by wizards and other spellcasters.

To the distant Northwest of the “Known World”, across the Great Waste, lays 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 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

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. 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.

The continent of Davania

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

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

Mystara is a hollow planet, with a habitable surface on its interior called the Hollow World. 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

Two moons orbit the planet. Matera is a moon much like our own, whose phases govern lycanthropy (werewolves, werebears, etc.). 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

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.

 

Products

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 1988
GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar Bruce Heard 1988
GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin Scott Haring 1989
GAZ12 The Golden Khan of Ethengar Jim Bambra 1989
GAZ13 The Shadow Elves Carl Sargent Gary Thomas 1990
GAZ14 The Atruaghin Clans William W. Connors 1991
Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia Aaron Allston 1989 Boxed set

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

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

Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure J. Grubb, A. Allston, T. Reid 1994 Boxed Set
Glantri: Kingdom of Magic M. Cook, B. Heard 1995 Boxed Set
Hail the Heroes T. Beach 1994 Adventure Boxed Set
Night of the Vampire R. Baker III 1994 Adventure Boxed Set
Mark of Amber A. Allston, J. Grubb and J. Rateliff 1995 Adventure Boxed Set
Player’s Survival Kit John D. Rateliff 1995 Accessory
Dungeon Master Survival Kit S. Schend 1995 Accessory
Poor Wizard’s Almanac III & Books of Facts A. Dupuis 1994 Accessory
Joshuan’s Almanac & Book of Facts A. Dupuis, E. Tornabene 1995 Accessory
Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix J. Nephew, J, Terra, S. Williams, T. Woodruff 1994 Accessory
Red Steel Campaign Expansion Tim Beach 1994 Accessory
Savage Baronies Tim Beach 1995 Accessory & Adventure
Savage Coast Monstrous Compendium Appendix L. Coleman, T. James, T. Zuvich 1996 Accessory

Mystara video games

Video games set in Mystara include the Capcom arcade Beat ’em up/role-playing video games Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (1993) and Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara (1996). Other Mystara video games are: Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun (Sega Genesis, 1992), Fantasy Empires (PC, 1993), and Order of the Griffon (TurboGrafx 16, 1992).

Novels

Dark Knight of Karameikos (October 1995), by Timothy Brown, (ISBN 0-7869-0307-4)
The Black Vessel (August 1996), by Morris Simon, (ISBN 0-7869-0507-7)

First Quest

Rogues to Riches (February 1995), by J. Robert King, (ISBN 1-56076-825-8)
Son of Dawn (May 1995), by Dixie Lee McKeone, (ISBN 1-56076-884-3)

Dragonlord Chronicles

Dragonlord of Mystara (July 1994), by Thorarinn Gunnarsson, (ISBN 1-56076-906-8)
Dragonking of Mystara (July 1995), by Thorarinn Gunnarsson, (ISBN 0-7869-0153-5)
Dragonmage of Mystara (April 1996), by Thorarinn Gunnarsson, (ISBN 0-7869-0488-7)

Penhaligon Trilogy

The Tainted Sword (October 1992), by D.J. Heinrich, (ISBN 1-56076-395-7)
The Dragon’s Tomb (April 1993), by D.J. Heinrich, (ISBN 1-56076-592-5)
The Fall of Magic (October 1993), by D.J. Heinrich, (ISBN 1-56076-663-8)

*Page Admins
Bruce Heard
Website http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/
Facebook © 2014 · English (US)

*Also visit:
http://pandius.com/
http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/thepiazza/bb/viewforum.php?f=3
https://www.facebook.com/groups/thepiazza/?bookmark_t=group
http://www.facebook.com/groups/mystara.reborn
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystara
http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/

Player Feedback form

Many years ago I used printed feedback forms for games I ran. Mainly because I had so many games going when I was a kid that I couldn’t keep track of who had been on what adventure and what group they went on it with. Well I just stumbled onto that feedback document in my google drive. At some point (probably around 2005 or 2006) I wrote it up sometime last year I must have uploaded it to google with all my other gaming notes. So here it is, edited and updated as a google form. I am sharing to see how well it works, and how it compiles the information. I think in the future I will be requiring these for XP rewards. It sure used to help a lot when I had a binder full of them sorted by campaign.

WEAPON MASTERY 2017

These are the Weapon Mastery rules that I use for my Labyrinth Lord game. They are  very stripped down version of the rules from BECMI (Master set and Rules Cyclopedia). You can use them in pretty much any OSR clone. The rules have seen five yearly revisions in our game, and will likely see more. They are not focused on realism, but rather on emulating the classic Weapon Mastery rules without all the complexity of target types and defense matrices.  If you have any thoughts or suggestion please comment below.

WEAPON MASTERY TRAINING

Characters must choose what weapons they are able to use proficiently. Each Weapon Mastery slot can be used for any weapon choice the character wishes, so a magic-user could choose dagger and battle axe for her two Mastery slots. These initial Mastery slots must be spent on different weapon selections.

  • Dwarf Class, Elf Class, and Halfling Class begin with Basic Mastery in all weapons they are capable of using.
  • Fighters, Paladins, and Rangers begin with 4 Mastery slots.
  • All other classes begin with 2 Mastery slots.

All characters gain an additional Mastery slot every three levels (3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, etc). These additional Mastery slots can be used to train with new weapons or to increase the Mastery level of a weapon you have already trained with by one tier (Skilled to Expert for example). In either case, a character must seek out an Expert (or better) trainer and study under the trainer for a week or more. Each week of training costs a variable amount of gold based on the level of Mastery sought. A student can only advance one Mastery level at a time, and may only be training one weapon at a time. Each increasing tier of Weapon Mastery grants bonuses and maneuvers as follows;

  • Untrained (No slots), -4 to hit.
  • Basic (1 slot); normal hit and damage rules.
  • Skilled (2 slots); +1 bonus to hit, criticals on a natural 20, maneuvers.
  • Expert (3 slots); +2 bonus to hit, criticals 19-20, maneuvers, increased damage.
  • Master (4 slots); +3 bonus to hit and defense, criticals 18-20, maneuvers, increased damage +2.
  • Grand Master (5 slots); +4 bonus to hit and defense, criticals 17-20, maneuvers, double increased damage +4, despair.

There is a chance even after time and money has been spent, that the character will fail to advance, leaving his Mastery slot still open. After each week a student must make a success roll, if the roll is failed the student loses the time and money invested in training that week, but gains a cumulative +10% bonus to his chance of success on the following week. The trainer must have an equal or higher level of Mastery than what the student seeks to learn. An Expert trainer grants no modifier to the student’s chance of success, however a Master grants the student +10% to his chance of success, and a Grand Master grants the student +20% to his chance of success. During the training the character can take up to one week off for each four weeks of training. Any more time away from training will cause the character to fail entirely. Often this “time off” will be in doing quests for the Master trainer. Note that with the cumulative bonus to the chance of success for each week of failure, all persistent students will eventually succeed. In a pinch a Skilled trainer can teach a student, but the chance of success is only 1% and typically no money is exchanged.

  • Basic, Requires 1 success at 100 GP each week of training. Chance of success 80%.
  • Skilled, Requires 2 successes at 250 GP each week. Chance of success 60%.
  • Expert, Requires 4 successes at 500 GP each week. Chance of success 40%.
  • Master, Requires 8 successes at 750 GP each week. Chance of success 20%.
  • Grand Master, Requires 12 successes at 1,000 GP each week. Chance of success 10%.

WEAPON LIST

Axe (hand), 1d6 slashing, Throw, Critical Stun.
Club, 1d4 bludgeoning, Critical Delay (includes torches and blunt objects).
Dagger, 1d4 piercing, Throw, Critical Damage.
Light Flail, 1d6 bludgeoning, Disarm.
Heavy Flail, 1d8 bludgeoning, Disarm, Two-handed.
Light Hammer, 1d4 bludgeoning, Throw.
War Hammer, 1d6 bludgeoning, Critical Stun, Two-handed.
Lance, 1d6 piercing, Charge, Set, Reach 10 ft.
Mace, 1d6 bludgeoning, Critical Delay.
Morning Star, 1d6 bludgeoning, Critical Stun, Two-handed.
Light Pick, 1d6 piercing, Critical Delay.
Heavy Pick, 1d8 piercing, Critical Stun, Two-handed.
Polearm, 1d10 piercing, Deflect, Reach 10 ft, Two-handed.
Quarterstaff, 1d6 bludgeoning, Critical Delay, Deflect, Reach 10 ft.
Spear, 1d6 piercing, Charge, Set, Reach 10 ft.
Bastard Sword, slash/pierce, Either Longsword or Greatsword.
Long Sword, 1d8 slash/pierce, Deflect, Disarm (includes scimitar and cutlass).
Short Sword, 1d6 slash/pierce, Deflect, Disarm (includes rapier and saber).
Great Sword, 1d10 slashing, Critical Stun, Two-handed.
Trident, 1d6 piercing, Critical Skewer, Set, Throw.
Whip, 1d4 slashing, Critical Delay, Entangle, Reach 10 ft.
Ranged Weapons
Crossbow, light, 1d6 piercing, Increased Range, Critical Delay
Heavy Crossbow, 1d8 piercing, Increased Range, Critical Stun (reloading takes a move action).
Dart, 1d4 piercing, Increased Range, Rapid-fire (includes shuriken and throwing knives).
Javelin, 1d6 piercing, Increased Range, Critical Delay.
Longbow, 1d8 piercing, Increased Range, Critical Stun.
Shortbow, 1d6 piercing, Increased Range, Critical Delay.
Sling, 1d4 bludgeoning, Increased Range, Critical Delay.

EXPLANATION OF TERMS

Maneuvers are different for each weapon (deflect, entangle, etc). Either you attempt a maneuver or else it happens automatically whenever you roll a Critical, depending on the maneuver.

  • Increased Damage: instead of using the listed damage for a weapon you used the next higher die. (1d4 becomes 1d6, etc).
  • Double Increased Damage: roll additional dice and add the damage modifier once (1d4 becomes 2d6+modifier).
  • Defense bonus: a proficiency bonus to the character’s AC as he uses the weapon to block, parry and threaten attackers.
  • Despair: or once per encounter a using a move action to make a flashy presentation with the weapon, the wielder can force all opponents to make a morale check. Opponents who fail must attempt to flee on their next action, cowering if this isn’t possible. If a cowering opponent is attacked it will fight back at -4 penalty, until an opportunity to flee presents itself. Despair only affects opponents with greater than animal intelligence, who are not immune to fear (no golems, animated undead, insects, etc). Despair also occurs anytime the character rolls a Critical on an attack.
  • Charge: If the attacker moves at least 60 feet in a straight line they may attack in the same action and the weapon deals double damage (multiply total damage result by x2). Any weapon can be used in a charge (move action) but they do not deal double damage without the Charge Maneuver (lance & spear). Note that a charging attacker suffers -2 defense until their next action.
  • Critical: a natural 20 rolled on the attack causes a critical hit from a Skilled wielder. The damage rolled is multiplied by two after all modifiers. Increased levels of Weapon Mastery increase the chances of scoring a Critical. Maneuvers with Critical in the name occur in addition to this extra damage.
  • Critical Delay: when a Critical is rolled to hit the target will act last (even after two handed weapons) until the end of their next round.
  • Critical Skewer: when a Critical is rolled to hit, in addition to dealing damage the attacker may leave the weapon in the target, who must take an additional 2d6 damage each round until it is pulled out (strength check by attacker or target).
  • Critical Stun: when a Critical is rolled to hit the target is delayed and is at -4 to hit until the end of their next round.
  • Deflect: in addition to regular attacks, you can counter attack ONE incoming blow each round if you you can beat the attacker’s hit roll (compare against AC hit). At Expert you can attempt to Deflect 2 different attacks, 3 attacks at Master, then 4 at Grand Master.
  • Disarm: on a successful hit, instead of dealing damage the attacker can force target to drop a weapon or item held. The attacker can also opt to Disarm on a critical (in addition to dealing damage).
  • Entangle: on a successful hit, instead of dealing damage the attacker can entangle the target who then cannot take move actions until it uses an action to escape (save vs. Paralyzation) or somehow breaks the weapon.
  • Increased Range: each of this weapon’s range increments is increased by +10′ at each mastery level starting with Skilled Mastery.
  • Multiplying Damage: roll damage and add modifiers, then multiply the total result. If you ever have to multiply damage more than once you increase the multiplier one step. A weapon with x2 damage from mastery and x2 damage from a charge would deal x3 damage, and if the wielder was using a potion of giant strength it would be multiplied again for x4 damage total.
  • Rapid-fire: the attacker may make one additional ranged attack with this weapon. At increased Mastery levels you may make more attacks (+2 attacks at Expert, +3 attacks at Master, +4 attacks at Grand Master).
  • Set: as a move action this weapon may be set vs. a charging opponent. The Set attack is rolled before the Charge and deals double damage (multiply total damage result by x2). If this incapacitates the charger then the charge attack is cancelled.
  • Throw: this weapon may be thrown, short range 10’/ medium range 20’/ long range 30′. At increased Mastery levels each range increment is increased 10 feet (short 20′ at Expert, short 30′ at Master, then short 40′ at Grand Master).
  • Two Handed: this weapon requires both hands. The character cannot use a shield, and always strikes last in combat, during the melee step of the End phase. Two handed weapons are typically too big for a halfling character to use.

last revision 04/4/2017

folder.jpg Labyrinth Lord cover.jpg Labyrinth Lord Advanced cover.jpg

What drove me to OSR games.

ADVENTURE
I loved d20 when it was released, but it became bloated and overly complex. Then Pathfinder seem to be the holy grail of gaming, running like precision clockwork, only to fall prey to the same sickening bloat of expansion book after expansion book. I had begun to feel that gaming had lost its magic for me. There were no more risks. Everything became so mechanical and predictable that the sessions weren’t fun anymore. Challenges became a simple matter of adding up a few bonuses.

“Okay so if one player assists me for a +2, and one player casts bless, and I use this masterwork item, and drink this potion, then we will have enough to do this no problem. No no, don’t waste that spell, we only need a 16 and this way I can do it by taking ten”.

That is what ruined gaming for me. That is what sucked the thrill out of adventures. That is what killed the magic of RPGs. And Old School Revival brought it back to life! I went back to Old School games because I knew that any current edition would just keep grinding out new material. They have to sell books after all, it’s a business. But I realized that the GAME hadn’t lost the magic, it’s not that the hobby wasn’t fun anymore. Rather it was that the editions we were playing. The heavy mechanics and the arguments over a mere +1 bonus. Because the player knows so much about the mechanics that they feel cheated if an unknown element effects the expected outcome. They know the target difficulty of almost any task, and therefore they know exactly how much that +1 matters.

Characters shouldn’t always know what is affecting their chance of success and failure. You don’t get to know that you are about to be stung by a bee on your way to the car this morning. You don’t get to factor that into your plans ahead of time and adjust accordingly. Likewise, the characters may not know about an invisible spy, or a magical effect which protects their target. They may not know that their weapons have been sabotaged during their last rest, or any of a multitude of other “surprises” that were supposed to come to light in a big plot reveal. But instead of these things causing the players to think “in-character” about what is happening and why, they would often result in bickering about how it could be possible that this rule on page X isn’t working all of a sudden. Everyone wanted to be Neo in The Matrix, to be able to see the ones and zeroes behind the facade.

And even when the rules weren’t causing arguments, they still often managed to sap the fun out a game session. How much fun is it to hunt across your character sheet front to back, top to bottom, looking for a bonus? Checking rulebooks full of powers and abilities, trying to hunt down that +2 that will ensure your success. The other players are losing interest while the GM is staring at you ready to tell you the results, but you continue to stall for time, saying “wait I know I get a bonus to that from something.” While you can get caught up in that type of thinking under pressure, and believe me I have, it isn’t really fun for anyone at the table. It isn’t the kind of heroic action which most RPG games aspire to.

Many newer games and independently published RPGs have great mechanics that focus on quick action resolution, or focus on a particular theme or playstyle. These mechanics can often be transported into your game and can be used to mitigate some of the crunch of newer systems. One mechanic I like is this;
Any one thing in your favor grants a +2, any two things grant a +5, and three or more things grant a +10. So if you are trying to pry open a door on 1d20, and you have a strength bonus, a crowbar and a buddy helping out, you get +10.
That is a lot easier than hunting for bonuses, and it rewards the group for working together. But new mechanics can also be very confusing or disorienting to a game that is already very crunchy, or to a group that is not comfortable with house rules. Sometimes it is better to just play the new game for a few sessions and then recommend using the rule in your d20 game.

When it all is said and done, I have found the simplest way to revitalise my interest in the hobby, was to look at all my current stories through the lens of Old School game rules. All the excess mechanics melt away, leaving the most important story elements behind. Characters are described by their deeds and background rather than their modifiers and bonuses. Situations are handled by interacting with the game environment rather than by hunting for something on a character sheet. Social situations in a game are played out instead of being resolved on a die roll.

As a final note, while it is true that you can run a crunchy, mechanic-heavy game that embraces all of these themes, that is often more a result of what you and your group brought to that game, rather than being a play style that is supported and rewarded by the mechanics of the game you are playing. Make sure you are having fun with your games, don’t let them become a chore. Keep on gaming and keep rolling 20’s.

6/18/2015
Vikshade Technolich

Note; This article was written last year before I got into the FATE RPG. Expect to be seeing more about that in coming weeks.

Sacred Incense of Spell Storing

Sacred Incense of Spell Storing

These  incense are often created at a holy order to be distributed to other churches temple and servants. When burned, a Sacred Incense can manifest the effects of one spell stored within it at the time of it’s creation typically at 16th caster level. To use a block of Sacred Incense you must spend 12 hours in a chamber with the burning Sacred Incense. This chamber must be on holy ground, sanctified to the same Ethos or Immortal as the original holy order who created the block of Sacred Incense. While the Sacred Incense is burning the recipient must be alone, resting, surrounded by the magical fumes. Some incense grant a continuous effect, such as Sacred Incense of Protection From Evil, while others grant one final effect once all the magic has been allowed to accumulate within the recipient over the 12 hour burning period. These limitations prevent theft and misuse of these powerful magic items, as one would have to be within the order to use it.

Types of Sacred Incense

  • Sacred Incense of Protection From Evil – continuous for 12 hours.
  • Sacred Incense of Cure Disease – as the spell.
  • Sacred Incense of Remove Curse – as the spell.
  • Sacred Incense of Neutralize Poison – the poison is delayed immediately.
  • Sacred Incense of Protection From Evil 10’ Radius – allows multiple recipients.
  • Sacred Incense of Commune – as the spell.
  • Sacred Incense of Raise Dead – as the spell.
  • Sacred Incense of Health – conditions are suppressed immediately.
  • Sacred Incense of Restoration – as the spell.
  • Sacred Incense of Resurrection – as the spell.

It is possible druids have created Sacred Incense of Weather Control and Insect Plague, and likely have created Speak with Animals and Sticks to Snakes Sacred Incense that function only in natural groves and pools..

There are even rumors of evil Sacred Incense, created to animate dead, or to inflict terrible curses and disease on unwilling recipients. These Incense work only in unholy temples and ancient sites of evil and death. Unwilling recipients would have to be bound and forced to let the fumes take their slow and terrible effect

Plot hook – a band of really evil characters are trying to resurrect a champion of evil who was captured and sentenced to death recently. They have unearthed his corpse and snuck into the local church of good to utilize Sacred Incense of Resurrection. They are clever assassins, but If they are forced to kill priest, the spilled blood may desecrate the area before the Sacred Incense can resurrect their champion.

Averoigne in Dungeons & Dragons

Averoigne in Dungeons & Dragons

So I will be running an adventure set in Averoigne next month after the Super Bowl is over and football season comes to an end. The game will be scaled for tenth level characters using Pathfinder RPG and should last about five to ten game sessions. As I talk about character creation with some of my gaming buddies I have come to realize that many people haven’t heard of Averoigne. So here is a quick primer to explain Averoigne as it appears in my Immortals campaign set on Mystara (the home of Original Dungeons & Dragons).

Averoigne is a mythical forest in France haunted by witches, vampires and werewolves. It was created by the author Clark Ashton Smith and detailed throughout eleven of his short stories. Most of the tales in the Averoigne cycle were published in the pages of the sci-fi fantasy magazine Weird Tales in the 1930’s. Clark Ashton wrote many other stories and contributed to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos with his elder god Tsathoggua and Hyperborean cycle. The name Klarkash-Ton is Lovecraft’s pun for his friend and correspondent Clark Ashton Smith. Tsathoggua features prominently in Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu RPG and would later become a major cult in Necromancers Games many excellent products for D&D 3rd Edition. If none of this is familiar to you then you have been using the internet wrong. I have linked some of the key subjects throughout this document to help get you caught up.

“It’s from N’kai that frightful Tsathoggua came — you know, the amorphous, toad-like god-creature mentioned in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon and the Commoriom myth-cycle preserved by the Atlantean high-priest Klarkash-Ton.”

—H. P. Lovecraft, “The Whisperer in Darkness”

The church of God exists in Averoigne and those who worship dark gods or practice black magic are burned as blasphemers and heretics. Yet the church has very little power over supernatural forces, and in some communities the priesthood is corrupted by the forces of darkness and sway of old gods. When something unnatural happens in Averoigne it is noteworthy, and causes alarm among the populace who look to the church for reassurance. This is not a realm of high fantasy, but rather more like a twisted version of Grimm’s fairy tales. It is a world where the spirits of the forest take lone children to live forever with them within trees or beneath still pools. Where the piping of a satyr in the deep woods is that last thing you would ever want to hear, and probably will be. Many of the sorcerers of Averoigne worship dark and malignant versions of the old Greek gods, they way they were portrayed before they were adopted by the Romans. Lust and greed are central motivations to the characters of stories set in Averoigne, and through these vices they touch upon the baser and more primal forces that lie in wait to consume them.

Averoigne came into my D&D campaign when I ran module X2 Castle Amber (or Chateau d’ Amberville). In the adventure the characters investigate a castle that had mysteriously come into their world in the past, and then vanished again. Now upon its return, shrouded in amber mists, the bold adventures head into the castle and become involved in a curse that they must end to return home from the lands of Averoigne. Unraveling the mysteries of the curse involves travelling all across the countryside of Averoigne, through gothic churches and deep haunted woods, across dark moors and even through gates that lead to different times. When the curse is lifted, Étienne d’Ambreville, the lord of the Chateau, is released from his imprisonment which is death itself. He then goes on to resume his duties as the Headmaster of the Great School of Magic in Glantri on Mystara. Every time I run a group through that module I pick new adventures from my library to fill in the gaps and individualize the experience for my players. With this next venture into the shrouded forests of mythic France I will be chronicling all the adventures that I have set there and focusing on getting one character in particular, out of Averoigne and back to his home world of Mystara.

Gradmick Woodshadow was an elf of the forest of Alfheim on Mystara. He lived a privileged life, being the son of the clan holder and having a natural talent for magic; Gradmick wanted for little and spent his days learning ways to extend his personal power. Everything changed the day the Shadow Elves attacked, and Gradmick’s family was suspected of being conspirators with the subterranean invaders. Gradmick and his aides fled Alfheim without knowing his father’s fate. Gradmick spent some time in human lands adventuring with a group of explorers and learning necromancy and fire based magic that were very rare in homeland of Alfheim. When he heard that the Shadow Elves had invaded his homeland and saw the masses of elven refuges that came to the humans asking for help he decided it was time to return. When he reached his homeland he found it a very different place, dark and sinister and unwelcoming to strangers. Finally coming upon his old clan hold of Shadow Tree, Gradmick faced a champion of the clan lord in a duel of magic, which he won with the use of his unorthodox magical arsenal. The Clan Lord revealed himself to be Gradmick’s father and told him that Shadow Elf blood ran through his veins and always had. Gradmick Woodshadow re-examined his whole life and stayed in Shadow Tree for a while to contemplate his next move. This is when he learned of the amber mists in New Averoigne, Glantri.

It is known that Étienne d’ Ambreveille had come to Mystara through the amber mists and that he, his family and their entire castle had disappeared through the mists after the founding of the great school of Magic many years ago. Gradmick had to know if this mist could be harnessed as a source of power. He went with his old group of adventuring buddies and together they entered the amber mist, and opened the portal to Averoigne, and there they solved the puzzle of the curse and returned home, but Gradmick was left behind. He fell in love with the Enchantress of Sylaire and willingly stayed behind to study alchemy with her and be her consort, no matter how much the others insisted, he would not be swayed…
Until now.