Mystara is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons role playing game. It 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 nation or 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. 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.
The Planet Mystara
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 150 million years ago.
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 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, 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 arcane 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 Varna lies between Sind, Wendar, the Great Waste, and The Black Mountains, formng 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, 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 than 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" also tend to keep the inhabitants of the Savage Coast within the region, as debilitating affects result if they leave the cursed area.
The Continent of Davania
Even though most of the Known world civilization historically originated from that part of the planet, it has not been very much developed while the Mystara product line was still hitting the shelves. The first major appearance of the Davania continent occurred in Dragon magazine # 148. The continent was then sketched as the Voyage of the Princess Ark series (By Bruce A. Heard) was published in Dragon magazine up to the # 220 issue. 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
- Main article: 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. One must keep in mind that the original creators of the Mystara world developed a very thorough and comprehensive history, almost as long as real world civilization. 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.
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.
Mystara also incorporated the Blackmoor setting by describing Blackmoor as evolving from a feudal kingdom into a highly advanced civilization, which existed in the distant past. The culture of Blackmoor unfortunately utilized 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
Video games set in Mystara include the Capcom arcade Beat 'em up/RPG 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), Order of the Griffon (TurboGrafx-16, 1992).
- 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)
- 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 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)
- 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)