On Jeff Grubb leaving TSR…

Jeff Grubb released an article yesterday on his reasons for leaving TSR. As you of course know, Jeff Grubb has worked extensively on the Marvel Super Heroes RPG, Spelljammer campaign setting for D&D, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and a slew of other projects from Warcraft novels to Heroclix sets.

The article really grabbed my interest though, partly because anything about the history of the hobby appeals to me, but more because of the mention of Mystara. Mystara, the Known World of the D&D game boxed sets, was the my home away from home as a child. I would spend hours reading about that world, and cross checking information about it. Then many more hours writing adventures there and running them for my friends. In fact I still do every Tuesday night on Roll20.net

You can read the article Mr. Grubb posted on Grubb Street, here;
http://grubbstreet.blogspot.com/2017/06/why-i-left-tsr.html

It wasn’t surprising to see that the transition of Mystara from Frank Mentzer’s classic boxed sets and the gazzeteers under the supervision of Bruce Heard over to a new format for AD&D 2nd edition was a disaster. I have ranted many times about how the 2nd edition products were the death throes for the world of Mystara. They took possibly the most in depth and complex world in their product line and reduced it to audio disc adventure learning tools for First Quest players. It was a disgrace.

And before you go on saying “Forgotten Realms is more detailed and complex than Mystara” as many do… Consider this quote from Jeff Grubbs article

 “Unlike the Realms, which had empty space where Ed hadn’t any stories/games in (Sembia, for example), there [Mystara] was a very complete world to start with here [and] I wanted to embrace the complexity.”

There is a joke about Boxed Sets – “How much does it cost to produce Boxed Sets? More than what you make on them.” (I didn’t say it was a funny joke). But I believe the financial crisis that the company faced shortly afterwards was not only the result of too many boxed sets, but a growing tendency to make bad decisions about what was good for the hobby and what was good for the fans of the product lines. Every time I read an article like this by one of the great game designers and their past with that company, I am more convinced that they drove the company into the ground with complete foresight of what was happening. The products became cheaper, the art was being re-used over and over, and the product lines and teams working on them became smaller and smaller.

I am glad the hobby survived through the 90’s and the rise of video game systems that were becoming ever more advanced. Today we see a thriving community of Retro-gamers bringing back the old school feel, as well as many companies taking new concepts and turning them into amazing new game systems. And we have even seen the phoenix-like rebirth of Dungeons & Dragons, first through the Open Game License of 3rd edition, then on to the massive multiplayer onli appeal of 4th edition. And now with the 5th edition of the game they have learned from the community that less is more, and a return to the roots of the game was in order.

The hobby has certainly had it’s ups and downs, but with so many games out there now, digital products, diceroller apps for phones, virtual online game tables, youtube, twitch, podcasts, and even professional quality television shows like Titansgrave, Critical Role, and Harmon’s Quest… It truly is a GREAT TIME TO BE A GAMER!

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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/

GM Bully – feedback

I really like this video and I think you should go and subscribe to this guy right away. But I disagree on two points, and I disagree strongly enough that I felt I needed to talk about it.

1. I like it when players add to the story and try to drive it in their own direction. It is a great source of ideas for me and I don’t mind giving them narrative control like that since I know they are getting what they want out of the story. If what they are trying to add to the story doesn’t fit, like a magic shop on an island of cannibals for example, then I let them know that. If they persist after that, they are nagging and “bullying”.

2. I know that losing control over your only playing piece in the game is terrible. but many games, especially older games enforce this. If you are playing a fantasy game and a mage charms your character, or you are struck by a fear effect in a horror game, then you are compelled to act in a certain way, or not at all. Sometimes it isn’t obvious to the character why this is happening. Sometimes the source of the compel is unknown and finding out about it is a part of the mystery. If your GM says “you feel an overwhelming sense of dread of dread as you approach the gates and you turn away from them in fear” then you as a player should ROLEPLAY that out and go with it. Don’t ever assume your GM is trying to ruin your fun. There is a reason for whatever they are doing although it may not be apparent at that moment. Few things are worse than having to give away metagame facts (like invisible spellcasters or cursed items) just because a fussy player wants an explanation to a situation where they feel you “must” be breaking the rules. Don’t be that player. Wait until a break to bring it up. Let the GM know it bothered you, and if you aren’t satisfied with how it is handled, let the GM know that too… out of game. Maybe your playstyles just aren’t a good mix and you should not be gaming together. Whatever the case, there is no good reason to throw a fit and ruin the fun and immersion of everyone else in the game.

I am looking forward to seeing more videos from How to be a Great Game Master, and I would like to know what YOU think about the topic. I will be watching the comments on Youtube, or you can talk about it here. I am sure there are plenty of people reading this thinking “you should NEVER take away player agency over their own character”. So go ahead and shout it from the rooftops. I will be watching for it.
Game On!