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Pen & Paper Roleplaying Central => Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion => Topic started by: SHARK on July 02, 2020, 09:09:08 PM

Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: SHARK on July 02, 2020, 09:09:08 PM
Greetings!

I always played AD&D 1E back in the day, using my own campaign world. I did purchase *many* gazetteers for Mystera though, and used them for inspiration, and adventures. What do you like about the world of Mystera?

What don't you like about Mystera?

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: RandyB on July 02, 2020, 09:40:06 PM
As I said in the other thread, Mystara never clicked with me. I never had a negative opinion of the setting, and have no reason to. Just not my cuppa.

Definitely interested in hearing from those who love it, though. Share your happy!
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: VisionStorm on July 02, 2020, 10:23:14 PM
I only ever got to play a few sessions in Mystara decades ago, and mostly know only bits and fragments of it from what I gathered from friends and glancing at their books at the time, as well as a few things I read online later on. I was intrigued by its cosmology and immense variety of cultures, and the idea of a Hollow World that had another world inside its main, primary Known World (following the concept of a Hollow Earth), with the inhabitants of each largely ignorant of the other. But occasionally, someone from the surface "known" world of Mystara would fall through the cracks to land in the mysterious, unknown world underneath, which was lit from a light that radiated from inside of it (IIRC).

The world had a strange mix of many cultures and pretty much every type of classic fantasy creature or mythical version of real world culture had a place or analog within it. I never ran into much material for it, since I got into the hobby in 1990 and didn't really start buying books till 1991, by which time AD&D 2e was out (which I preferred over Basic and quickly made the change), and I believe Mystara may have already been cancelled by then. But it was the one thing about Basic that always stuck with me due to its strange cosmology and myriad lands, cultures and peoples.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Thornhammer on July 02, 2020, 10:33:51 PM
...that fucker Bargle.  

Sumbitch is forever burned into my memory.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Razor 007 on July 02, 2020, 10:45:24 PM
The concept of the Hollow World, is very interesting.  Does the Underdark still exist between the surface world, and the hollow world?  Because; if we can still have the Underdark within the outer crust, let's rock that setting!!!
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: deadDMwalking on July 02, 2020, 10:47:53 PM
I was expecting a discussion of an off-brand Chinese knock-off of Mystara.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: insubordinate polyhedral on July 02, 2020, 11:14:02 PM
And for those of us who missed Mystara the first time around, but are interested -- what were your favorite adventures/books/publications about the setting?
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Darrin Kelley on July 02, 2020, 11:19:15 PM
Mystara was my first D&D fantasy world. Because I started with BECMI. It was just the defacto setting I was introduced to. And I too bought a bunch of the Gazeteers.

My problem with the world was when it became overloaded. When there was just too much new material and classes to keep up with. Which ended up making it feel like the system was always missing something. Even though it started out pretty simple.

Would I like to see Mystara come back? Yes. But in a much more manageable form.

My favorite adventure for Mystara will always be B10 Night's Dark Terror. The module was a fully fleshed out campaign that gave the players a full D&D Basic experience. Rather than jumping though the episodic nature of the rest of the series.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Steven Mitchell on July 02, 2020, 11:41:49 PM
Despite BECMI being one of my favorite editions, Mystara was never a big draw for me.  Though in fairness, that was during a spell where I was doing nothing but my own settings (similar to now), and thus wasn't buying much when it was big.  I might have gotten into it more had the timing been different.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Shasarak on July 02, 2020, 11:45:14 PM
I loved the Princess Arc articles in the Dragon magazine and my favourite supplement was Top Ballista.  I love Tinker Gnomes!
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Spinachcat on July 03, 2020, 12:21:33 AM
What made the setting special?

How was the setting notably different than Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms?

Why would I play Mystara rather than a homebrew?

What would be the motivation to revisit the setting?
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Mercurius on July 03, 2020, 12:25:36 AM
Elven facial hair sucks. Stephen Fabian's artwork does not.

If memory serves, most folks back in the 80s were either BECMI or AD&D, rarely the twain shall meet (As an AD&D guy, I remember buying Death's Ride for the cover but being annoyed with the BECMI rules). BECMI folks were into Mystara, AD&D folks into Greyhawk or Dragonlance. I bought a few Mystara gazetteers because I like setting books but never deep-dove into Mystara lore like I did with the D&D settings.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: S'mon on July 03, 2020, 02:14:21 AM
Quote from: SHARK;1137676
Greetings!

I always played AD&D 1E back in the day, using my own campaign world. I did purchase *many* gazetteers for Mystera though, and used them for inspiration, and adventures. What do you like about the world of Mystera?

What don't you like about Mystera?

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK

Don't like - it uses hex maps, which I love, but they are vestigial and not keyed for hexcrawling. The GM still has to do all the work of keying hexes if running a hexcrawl sandbox.

Like - the greatest thing about Mystara is its flexibility through compartmentalisation; each Gaz is its own little compartment world, which lets you establish an immediate campaign theme. They don't work very well if all are treated as canon - far better to take one as canon and then take compatible bits from the rest to build the world you want. But this is an extremely easy and fun exercise. You can do a low magic Vikings game, a super high magic Wizards World, a medieval D&D-world, a world of 17th century swashbucklers, a Roman Empire setting, etc etc. Not to mention the Hollow World - if only HW had been hex keyed, how awesome it'd be!
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: JeremyR on July 03, 2020, 02:49:18 AM
The key to Mystara (or the Known World) was that it was built around the implications of the D&D rules (BECMI). Like you had a nation full of 36th level magic-users, because they never aged, potions of longevity didn't have the nasty catch to them that AD&D did.  War and mass combat were important, because it had a mass combat system in the rules.

This is why the later AD&D conversion didn't work. It made it into a generic fantasy world, losing all the D&Disms that separated D&D from AD&D.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Reckall on July 03, 2020, 03:20:25 AM
Quote from: insubordinate polyhedral;1137695
And for those of us who missed Mystara the first time around, but are interested -- what were your favorite adventures/books/publications about the setting?


To me, Glantri was the absolute pinnacle: Renaissance Venice plus oWoD-level intrigue plus radiation-based magic - what there was not to like? On the "classic D&D side", Karameikos was a fully fleshed background for low-to-mid characters - you could play a whole campaign without exiting its borders (see also "Night's Dark Terror").
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Luca on July 03, 2020, 08:18:08 AM
Like it has been said, the main strength of Mystara is the sheer volume of material produced for it - each Gazetter is its own campaign setting, and several of them are excellent.

Gaz 1 (Karameikos) it's your bog standard low-tech scarcely populated medieval D&D fantasy world where your PCs can be granted land after a certain level, start the domain management game etc.
Gaz 3 (Glantri) is ultra-high-magic magocracy with Renaissance-styled intrigue, and special magic schools which gave high level mages even more ridiculous powers (one school at the highest levels lets you turn into a genuine colossal dragon, etc)
Gaz 5 (Alfheim) is the "magical elven forest" supplement which had special rules for taking elves to high levels (demi-humans were level-capped in BECMI).

Then you have the viking gazeteer, the dwarves gazetteer, the halfling gazetter, the merchant princes gazetter, the Shadow Elves gazetter etc. Some of them had some pretty weird concepts (the god of Shadow Elves was an immortal who had been a nuclear physicist and was trying to save the race from extinction due to long-term radiation poisoning).

This was also the main weakness of the setting; mixing all the stuff together was essentially impossible, both from a rules point of view (the gazetteers dedicated to specific races or classes liked to introduce their own sets of additional rules) and from an internal logic point of view (the desert gazetteer was right next to the magical elven forest, the magic super-empire ruled by a council of 1000 36th level wizards somehow had not yet conquered the rest of the world for... reasons, etc. etc.)

As S'mon said, by far the best use was to pick one of the Gazetteers as the main campaign theme and then use bits and pieces of the others to fill up the world. The plus is that the operation was easy (due to the immensity of material produced) and it gave you immediate access to lots of different campaign styles - essentially each Gazetteer was a type of campaign. And since there were (if memory serves) 14 of them plus the big box about Thyatis and Alphatia... that's a lot of campaign styles ready to go.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: spon on July 03, 2020, 08:24:55 AM
I liked bits of it. X1 was amazing - but it could have been set anywhere. I loved the X4/X5/X10 with their world-spanning war themes. But there were a few too many "simplistic" bits that I couldn't get my head around. I think Greyhawk did the hodge-podge of "if you search hard enough you'll find an example of a real-world political system" countries better. Never got into Red Steel, no idea how that was.

The alphatia/Thyatis conflict was pretty meh. I did like the voyages of the Princess Ark in dragon magazine though, gave me lots of inspiration.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Y Mab Darogan on July 03, 2020, 08:27:56 AM
Honestly the best thing about Mystara is it's use as inspiration and resource in your Homebrew or as a drop in for other settings. The gazetteers are excellent for the most part.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Tom Kalbfus on July 03, 2020, 08:50:35 AM
Quote from: HorusArisen;1137723
Honestly the best thing about Mystara is it's use as inspiration and resource in your Homebrew or as a drop in for other settings. The gazetteers are excellent for the most part.

Yep, I recently converted the Isle of Dread to 3rd edition, as much of it is just a bunch of encounters with dinosaurs. I think it could be an interesting setting, the planet is hollow, its continents are actually arrayed the way Earth's was over 100 million years ago when dinosaurs actually did rule the Earth. Maybe the planet is artificial, a hollow planet is definitely a sign of artifice.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: GameDaddy on July 03, 2020, 09:02:08 AM
Had the entire collection of gazetteers at one time, sold it off in 2008 at the GenCon auction when I was paring down my campaign worlds some. I already had more than enough published campaign worlds to play in, most of which are Homebrew.

of Mystara, my absolute favorite was the Northern Reaches followed by The Five Shires.  The Dwarves of Rockholme featured way up there for my as well, because it was the first campaign setting that focused exclusively on Dwarves. I couldn't even find anything for Middle Earth Roleplayling that features Dwarves, so TSR did manage a first in creating this comprehensive setting for Dwarven clans.

The Northern Reaches
was used to fuel many of my Nordic themed D&D campaigns, and while I didn't use the Mystara game maps (because I already had so many of my own) I poached NPCs, encounters and themes liberally from the book. Ditto in that for The Five Shires. Particularly useful to me, where the random name generators, The player's campaign books, and of course, they had some ready made adventures to kick start a campaign.

The Five Shires. Same as above, only for Halflings. Wasn't over enthused at TSRs classification System for Hobbits (Halflings), but did enjoy the hobbit songs created by Ed Greenwood, and  of course, the Visitor's Guide.

The Dwarves of Rockholme. Really liked the name generator and clans, although added a few of my own Dwarven clans as well. All these books had plenty of ready-made adventures, and had dispensed with the earlier level caps for Dwarves and Elves (something I had done even back in the mid-70's for OD&D), I liked the additions to Dwarven language, and the Dwarven tasks table, which also included a skills system for original D&D, which was sadly lacking.


I'd have to say, I was surprised to see this BX/OD&D campaign setting released beginning in my area around 1985, was impressed with the great details these Gazateers had provided, but did not add them to my gaming collection at the time, because it seemed TSR was way late in releasing a campaign setting for Original Dungeons and Dragons. By then, most of us had been playing for a decade and had built our own fantasy worlds to run games in. At this point they were following the RPG Industry instead of leading it, and were becoming increasingly hostile to its player base refusing to run Mystara events at conventions which would have garnered them a lot of support from the early gamers. Instead all we had was AD&D sponsored events by the RPGA.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Dimitrios on July 03, 2020, 10:48:09 AM
Seconding what others have said about the modular nature of the gazetteers. One great thing about Mystara is that it's especially easy to not use the entire setting and just take the bits that interest you.

Another thing I like about the gazetteers is the scale. They strike a nice balance, with more detail than whole campaign world books generally give, but more breadth than a city or town book.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: insubordinate polyhedral on July 03, 2020, 03:18:12 PM
Thank you Reckall, Luca, spon, and GameDaddy. I just picked up a few of those recommendations!

That said, holy cats GAZ5: https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0880385383/
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Narmer on July 03, 2020, 03:42:09 PM
I bought the whole bundle of Gazetteers in PDF several years ago for a really good price.  I need to start reading them seriously.
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Slambo on July 04, 2020, 12:01:12 AM
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLI27Za9sqyRVnc9-naoDIWQ_6MM6ONwQy

Mt. Welch's whole welcome to mystara play list. He has veen making a 5e conversion for a while, and he even makes an effort to connect some of the disparate elements of the various gazeteers
Title: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Luca on July 04, 2020, 02:22:17 AM
Quote from: insubordinate polyhedral;1137776
Thank you Reckall, Luca, spon, and GameDaddy. I just picked up a few of those recommendations!

That said, holy cats GAZ5: https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0880385383/


Do not believe Amazon's used book prices. Those are easily inflated by "selling wars" caused by automated selling bots whose owners are not able to properly set their algorithm's boundaries.

There was one particularly silly incident in which two copies of an out of print book, which were being sold by two sellers who had set their bots' parameters on each other, were being sold for an-ever increasing price reaching 24 million US$ before one of the owners realized what was going on and manually fixed the price.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Murphy78 on January 09, 2021, 05:40:02 PM
Greetings!

I always played AD&D 1E back in the day, using my own campaign world. I did purchase *many* gazetteers for Mystera though, and used them for inspiration, and adventures. What do you like about the world of Mystera?

What don't you like about Mystera?

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK

I grew up with Becmi and Mystara, the first RPG and Campaign Setting brought to Italy, where I live.
 Mystara to this day is my favourite setting.

The Gazzetters are mostly quite good, but are splatbooks: any one of them is like the story of a football club from the mouth of their hooligans. So in Ierendi you learn what an adventuring/swasbuckling/pirate/merchant powerhouse that Kingdom is, but in Minrothad you discover that the Guilds are actually that. Glantri is the fabled Wizard Country, center of  Magic Lore and Weirdness...but, hey THE Magocracy is really the Empire of Alphatia.
Also, many thing are retconned out of the blue...the Heldann Freeholds, where peaceful Icelander live....no, the fearsome Heldannic Knights territories, the unstoppable zealots with skyship. And skyship? Suddenly are everywhere, every country got  magical air force.

The best gazetteer, in my opinion are the most vanilla:)
GAZ1 Karameikos: a masterpiece. A credibile kingdom (GrandDuchy) and a lot of adventure ideas. Also, plenty of oppurtunities for characters to make a fortune. Thieves Guilds, a silly concept for laughs, is converted into something real (well movie-real). Politics done well with animosity between conquerors and conquered, a reasonable ruler that only partially controls the country ecc

Rockhome and the Five Shire also are well done. All theese Gaz have that in common:
- a simple premise well executed;
- describing lands with just one culture (or 2 in case of Karameikos).

Glantri is awesome, the high-fantasy realm of the wizards...but:
- landlocked Venice? come on!;
- the kitchen sink of every European culture (Scottish, French, Italian, Spanish Elves, Flemish, Romanian/Slavic vampires...)
Well, all this is justified in the setting, but the Theme Park effect is quite strong.

In Mystara everything seems possible no matter how zany.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Omega on January 09, 2021, 06:13:39 PM
The concept of the Hollow World, is very interesting.  Does the Underdark still exist between the surface world, and the hollow world?  Because; if we can still have the Underdark within the outer crust, let's rock that setting!!!

Not quite, but yes? Maybee?

They mention that the shadow elves/drow use caves and tunnels to traverse from inner to outer. But I do not recall if they embellished on that or not. It may have been a one way trip from inner to outer, or outer to inner. Its been a long time.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Omega on January 09, 2021, 06:52:12 PM
I have I think the complete set of Gazeteers and a friend had the Mystara box set.

I liked the Gazeteers. But really did not like Mystara. This is not the Known world setting I was introduced to in BX. And my main complaint is the same as with several other "updated" settings.

It is too full. In nearly every Mystara product they try to fill practically every other hex with a town or whatever and flesh things out too much in a way. Or in a way that just did not appeal to me at all after growing up with BX's nearly blank slate that was the Known World. You had some place names and a few points of interest and a paragraph at best of info on the main kingdoms and that was it. The land was totally wide open to make of what you will.

Mystara very much flt to me that it stole away all that and tried to fill in every blank.

But damn it those Gazeteers were great! argh!

ahem.

But what I was fine with were the Creature Crucible set of setting books. My favourite being the Top Gnome setting which is essentially a huge flying city populated by a variety of non-human and monster races. And had WWI style aeroplanes powered by magic. Second favourite is the Night Howlers setting which is build around a, relatively, peaceful secretly lycanthrope kingdom and its dealings within and without. Interesting too as the founding members were werewolves from France who ended up on Mystara. The last I know of is the undersea one which delves into the aquatic races and kingdoms.

And apparently Thunder Rift was set in Mystara. This is a great little self contained campaign setting meant for new DMs. Just enough info and history to get up and running and enough blank to grow into and make of it whatever you want.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Starglyte on January 09, 2021, 09:17:00 PM
It was my first D&D, starting with the Hollow World Box set. For Christmas that year, I got four gazeteers, with Glantri being my favorite. Other than Ravenloft, Mystara is my favorite campaign setting. Kinda why I like Golarion (Pathfinder) so much, it reminds me of the Known World.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Semaj Khan on January 10, 2021, 12:49:03 AM
It was cool when it was introduced in the B/X rule books and with Isle of Dread... sorta hit a sweet spot for me.

Later, with all the expansions and books and stuff... especially with Mentzer's fucked up BECMI... it came off as someone's Ren Faire wank fantasy.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: SHARK on January 10, 2021, 03:52:52 AM
It was cool when it was introduced in the B/X rule books and with Isle of Dread... sorta hit a sweet spot for me.

Later, with all the expansions and books and stuff... especially with Mentzer's fucked up BECMI... it came off as someone's Ren Faire wank fantasy.

Greetings!

*Laughing* Interesting, Semaj Khan. How in your view did the Mystara world come off as someone's Ren Faire wank fantasy?

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: BronzeDragon on January 12, 2021, 10:54:18 PM
Glantri is awesome, the high-fantasy realm of the wizards...but:
- landlocked Venice? come on!;

Glantri isn't Venice.

Darokin is.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Semaj Khan on January 12, 2021, 11:13:34 PM
It was cool when it was introduced in the B/X rule books and with Isle of Dread... sorta hit a sweet spot for me.

Later, with all the expansions and books and stuff... especially with Mentzer's fucked up BECMI... it came off as someone's Ren Faire wank fantasy.

Greetings!

*Laughing* Interesting, Semaj Khan. How in your view did the Mystara world come off as someone's Ren Faire wank fantasy?

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK

Mainly from the artwork.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Murphy78 on January 13, 2021, 02:47:37 AM
Glantri is awesome, the high-fantasy realm of the wizards...but:
- landlocked Venice? come on!;

Glantri isn't Venice.

Darokin is.

Darokin's governement is based on Venice (even if it was an aristocracy and not a plutocracy), but Glantri City is based on the town of Venice, with canals and gondolas. And Venice being in a laguna in the sea, formerly being a naval power and ruling a mainly  seaside empire (with islands, coastlines, ports) it sounds quite strange to imagine a Venice-like city ruling a landlocked country.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: BronzeDragon on January 13, 2021, 01:40:27 PM
Darokin's governement is based on Venice (even if it was an aristocracy and not a plutocracy), but Glantri City is based on the town of Venice, with canals and gondolas. And Venice being in a laguna in the sea, formerly being a naval power and ruling a mainly  seaside empire (with islands, coastlines, ports) it sounds quite strange to imagine a Venice-like city ruling a landlocked country.

It's more than just government.

Darokin actually behaves like Venice, putting trade above all other things, and as you say employing navigation to project that trading power.

Sure, Glantri city itself is reminiscent of the actual Venice, but the Principalities of Glantri are far larger and more varied than the Venetian Republic ever was. There's a fair bit of France, Spain and Germany in the Principalities, as well as the occasional Italian flavor.

As has been said before, Mystara is a huge mish-mash of Earth cultures spanning the Roman Empire to Renaissance Europe, with stops in Turkic Arabia, pre-medieval Congo and magical Atlantis, among others.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Pat on January 13, 2021, 02:32:14 PM
Glantri isn't Venice.
Glantri City is modeled after Venice, except it's sitting on the leaky nuclear reactor of a spaceship, and there's a magical school and flying gondolas that shoot magic missiles. The rest of Glantri includes provinces that are inspired by various periods of Italy, Germany, Flanders, Hungary, Scotland, India, and Spain. All live in a set of high valleys surrounded by mountains, and are ruled by a nobility composed solely of mages. It makes no sense, and it's glorious.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: BronzeDragon on January 14, 2021, 01:03:25 AM
Glantri City is modeled after Venice, except it's sitting on the leaky nuclear reactor of a spaceship, and there's a magical school and flying gondolas that shoot magic missiles. The rest of Glantri includes provinces that are inspired by various periods of Italy, Germany, Flanders, Hungary, Scotland, India, and Spain. All live in a set of high valleys surrounded by mountains, and are ruled by a nobility composed solely of mages.

I should have made it clear I was talking about the Principalities and not just the city.

It makes no sense, and it's glorious.

QFT.
Title: Re: The Campaign World Of Mystera!
Post by: Murphy78 on January 14, 2021, 05:40:40 AM
Darokin's governement is based on Venice (even if it was an aristocracy and not a plutocracy), but Glantri City is based on the town of Venice, with canals and gondolas. And Venice being in a laguna in the sea, formerly being a naval power and ruling a mainly  seaside empire (with islands, coastlines, ports) it sounds quite strange to imagine a Venice-like city ruling a landlocked country.

It's more than just government.

Darokin actually behaves like Venice, putting trade above all other things, and as you say employing navigation to project that trading power.

Somewhat, but the ruling class was land-owning nobles, not merchants. And Darokin is mainly a land power, not naval.

Quote
Sure, Glantri city itself is reminiscent of the actual Venice, but the Principalities of Glantri are far larger and more varied than the Venetian Republic ever was. There's a fair bit of France, Spain and Germany in the Principalities, as well as the occasional Italian flavor.

As has been said before, Mystara is a huge mish-mash of Earth cultures spanning the Roman Empire to Renaissance Europe, with stops in Turkic Arabia, pre-medieval Congo and magical Atlantis, among others.

Also, there's an event in Glantri that mirrors venetian history: the disenfranchising of non-spellcasters, which mirrors the Great Council Lockout of 1296, that excluded commoners from the Great Council of Venice (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serrata_del_Maggior_Consiglio).
It is a described in Gaz3 as an actual session of the Parliament, with mundanes being outvoted and thrown out of the House.
Sure, both countries have taken something from Venice and many mores sources.