OD&D Original 'Known World' Documents Released

The Known World (which later became Mystara) from the BECMI editions of D&D from 1983-90 started as Tom Moldvay’s and Lawrence Schick’s own campaign which ran from about 1976-1979. Bill Wilkerson, a player of those games saved the Moldvay-era OD&D house rules from then, as well as his own overview of the Imirrhosian Continent, which have been scanned and formatted into OD&D booklets by Designers & Dragons author Shannon Appelcline.

You can find them on this Google drive link in the form of 8 PDFs. There's more information about the contents in this thread at The Piazza.

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These documents were in Bill Wilkerson's folder:

-Photocopies of Moldvay's & Schick's OD&D house rules. We scanned them in three batches, which I here arbitrarily designate A, B, and C.

-Tom Moldvay's character sheet for one of his PCs: Moirgighan, a human female Fighter / Magic-User. As far as I recall, this is an original (not photocopied) document, featuring Tom's own ballpoint-pen hand-writing.

-Bill Wilkerson's campaign prep notes, which provide further details on the Original Known World, such as the name of the continent: Imirrhos. These were his notes from when he prepared to DM in the Original Known World; though as far as he recalls, he didn't put them to use.

-"The Quest for the Sacred Sceptre" adventure. Bill Wilkerson's submission to one of the early Dungeon Design Contests held by DRAGON magazine. Set in the Kingdom of Talinor. The adventure was not selected, and the contest rules stipulated that the submissions become property of TSR. Bill wonders how the dating of his Spider Queen design relates to the dating and development of Lolth, and whether he based his Spider Queen on Lolth, or vice versa. (I looked up the International Dungeon Design Contest (IDDC): the first contest posted the list of winners in DRAGON #32 December 1979 (it says the judging took two months longer than planned); and the start of the second contest (IDDC II) was announced in DRAGON#36 April 1980. Any experts in Lolth are welcome to chime in.)
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Moldvay and Schick were working on an expert that was to push the gonzo. But then TSR saw how well the basic set did and decided to go a different route. It’s purportedly one of the reasons Schick left and Moldvay did Lords of Creation.

I’ll see if I can dig up the source when I get a chance.

Please note I reserve the right to be absolutely wrong.

The Basic and Expert sets were both developed at the same time and released in 1981.

I have heard that Schick left largely because of what happened with Star Frontiers - there's something about it in Game Wizards, but I don't have my copy handy.
 

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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
In Goodman Games's "Original Adventures Reincarnated: The Isle of Dread," there are some pretty good interviews in the prologue. Two of them, with Cook and Schick, pertain to the origins of the the Known World/Mystara campaign, their inspirations, and their creative process.

From Cook's interview, beginning on Page 5:

"We didn't set out to create a classic. I'm not sure you can ever intentionally do that, and for Tom and me, that thought didn't even cross our minds. We were focused on the mundane business of filling up a box. The Basic Set had an adventure therefore we needed one in the Expert Set. More importantly we needed an adventure that could teach novice DMs how to create and run a wilderness game. Something self-contained (an island) with lots to explore (hexes!) filled with random encounters (tables!) and a simple storyline that could work with almost any campaign (dinosaurs and lost worlds!). Plus, we needed to write it fast.
"So, we spent a several months with our heads down writing what was meant to be a solid example of how to create, populate, and run a wilderness setting. With two writers and little time for playtesting or revision, we drew on what we knew. Our shared love of pulpy lost world stories gave us both a common theme to write about. It wasn't even cliché since no one had created such an unashamed lost world module before. Tom's desire to get dinosaurs into the rules somehow filled out the wilderness with new monsters and challenges. My fondness for ancient cults and bizarre foes added the final threat at the center of the island.
"In hindsight the design never should have worked, what with two hands and brains creating one adventure at their typewrites at the same time. Since we were still creating our jobs while we were doing them, nobody told us you shouldn't design an adventure that way, so we did. And we got it done in time. We were happy. It was complete and it played fun even if the story was not profound. There were no deeply detailed NPCs, complex plots, or earth-shaking foes. There was a map, a boat, and a lot of jungle filled with monsters to kill and treasure to find.
"Most of all, we didn't know that we were sowing the seeds for the whole of Mystara. The island needed to be somewhere, and we forged that into the proto-Known World. There was a thought that we might place future adventures into the map, but never a great plan to create a complete campaign setting that Mystara became. We didn't even know how to create campaign settings at the time."

And from Lawrence Schick's interview, beginning on Page 7:

"In early '74 Tom came back from an SF convention with Dungeons & Dragons in its original white box edition. He DMed a session, I DMed a session, and suddenly we knew what we were going to create together: a fantasy world setting for D&D.
"Most fictional fantasy worlds, of course, are based on aspects of our own world and its history. For example, all the states in Robert E. Howard's Hyborian setting are based on real-world cultures, simplified and boiled down to their easily-recognized essences--clichés, in other words, but in tropes that were instantly familiar to Howard's readers. We decided we could do the same thing, adapting from historical sources, so our first task was to make a list of world cultures that would be useful templates for fantasy gaming. The list looked something like this:
  • Norse
  • Ancient Mediterranean (Greece/Rome)
  • Ottoman Empire
  • Mongolian Tribes
  • Aztec Mexico
  • Han China
  • Celtic Wales
  • Pharaonic Egypt
  • Hanseatic League Baltics
  • Carolingian France
  • Ancient Persia
  • Dutch Republic
  • Mughal India
"We decided to plot out a single giant Pangea-type continent on which there would be fantasy-fictionalized versions of each of the above cultures. We also added homelands for the nonhuman races: Orcs, Goblins, Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Lizard-Men, Deep Ones, Kzinti Catfolk, and Barsoomian Tharks, as well as a pirate kingdom, and areas where prehistoric creatures were the norm. Plus, in every land there would be hidden cults that worshipped Lovecraftian Elder Gods.
"We dubbed this setting the "Known World," to imply there was more out there yet to be discovered, because we didn't want to paint ourselves into a corner. It was our intention to use the Known World in ongoing open-ended campaigns run by multiple DMs in which player characters could go back and forth from one DM's game to another. Moldvay and I were already running our own campaigns this way, and we hoped to bring other DMs on board as well, so we'd all be playing in the same giant sandbox.
"That meant we were going to need detailed write-ups on each of the various Known World cultures, there there would be consistency in how different DMs depicted different areas. For every culture we needed to specify how it was organized, who ruled it and by what methods, what gods the people worshipped, what their economies were founded on, what other states were their traditional rivals or allies, what their geography and environments were like, key cities and fortresses, important events in recent history, and so forth. Setting out to do this for two dozen homelands was pretty ambitions, but why the hell not? We were college students with plenty of time on our hands.
"Moldvay did most of the initial culture write-ups, whereas I created the leading non-player characters in each homeland; I was also the Name Guy and came up with most of the location names, drawing on Dunsnay, Vance, and Clark Ashton Smith for inspiration. We were also inspired by how H. P. Lovecraft and his circle all drew from each other's works in creating stories set in a common setting. We thought, by imitating that approach, we could create something the sum of which would be greater than its parts. And it would be an open setting that drew in the work and creativity of whoever wanted to contribute to it.
"In early 1979 I went to work at TSR Hobbies as a designer for D&D and other games. I was rapidly promoted to director of the Design Department, and in 1980 I brought Moldvay in to join me as a game designer. At that time, we were preparing a revised version of the D&D Basic Set, as well as a companion box, the Expert Set, which would introduce players and DMs to wilderness adventures in the wider world.
So, we were going to need a wider fantasy world to put them in. Up to that point most of TSR's scenarios had been set in Gary Gygax's World of Greyhawk, but we couldn't use that, as it was Gary's personal campaign setting, and was reserved for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game products. I can't remember whether it was Moldvay or me who suggested it, but we proposed dusting off our Known World documents for use as the new, standard D&D campaign setting."

So there you have it...the story of how the Known World came to be, from the authors themselves, as documented by Goodman Games. (And if you haven't picked up your copy of their Isle of Dread yet, what are you waiting for?)

EDIT: Whew. That was a lot to type. Let me know if I should SBLOCK that.
 
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rogueattorney

Adventurer
The Basic and Expert sets were both developed at the same time and released in 1981.

I have heard that Schick left largely because of what happened with Star Frontiers - there's something about it in Game Wizards, but I don't have my copy handy.
If you look at the 1980 Monster & Treasure Assortment, you can see from the upper levels (1-3), they had a pretty good idea what was going to be in the Basic boxed set and had most of the nomenclature dialed in.

From the lower levels (4+), you can see that they were still hashing out what was going to be in the Expert box as there were still a ton of OD&Disms and AD&Disms left over from the original 1977-78 editions including Demi-human thieves, paladins, demons, and etc.
 

This information is still wrong. The correct information is: "from the B/X editions of D&D from 1981".

They're both right. It's not wrong. It doesn't say that the Known Word isn't "from" B/X. But it is also "from" BECMI. It would be wrong if it said it "originated from" the BECMI edition.

BECMI is the most famous iteration of the Known World, so it makes sense to highlight that in a quick blurb.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
They're both right.
No, they're not.
It's not wrong.
Yes, it is.
It doesn't say that the Known Word isn't "from" B/X.
That's gamer hair splitting for you.

"From" implies origination. If I say I'm from Germany you know what I mean. You can't be from two places. Unless they're not mutually exclusive categories. Either you're from France or you're from Germany. You can't be both...unless you're talking about a piece of land that's shifted possession from France to Germany or vice versa.

So simple question. Where did the Known World originate in D&D publications? What is the earliest instance of it appearing. B/X, X60 to be exact, is the first, earliest appearance of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, the single most famous bit of the Known World. So to say it's "from" BECMI is literally, factually wrong. It's "from" B/X as in that's it's first appearance.
But it is also "from" BECMI.
It exists in BECMI, it's not from BECMI. There's a difference. Which you're ignoring. Apparently simply to argue.
It would be wrong if it said it "originated from" the BECMI edition.
It's equally wrong to say it's from BECMI. Because it isn't.
BECMI is the most famous iteration of the Known World, so it makes sense to highlight that in a quick blurb.
Sure, but there's a factually accurate way to do that. "Most widely known" or the like. "From" implies origination. And I'm fairly confident you're aware of that. Either way, tschüss.
 

"From" implies origination. If I say I'm from Germany you know what I mean. You can't be from two places. Unless they're not mutually exclusive categories. Either you're from France or you're from Germany. You can't be both... [...]
Yes many people are from two places. From both Germany and France.
Having moved around, I have a hard time answering where I'm "from." I usually choose where I was born, or where I currently reside.
Sure, but there's a factually accurate way to do that. "Most widely known" or the like.
Well said.
Another way: changing "BECMI" to "Basic D&D" would be perfect.

...And changing... "which have been scanned and formatted into OD&D booklets by Designers & Dragons author Shannon Appelcline."
to... "which have been scanned by Travis Henry ("Dungeonosophy") and formatted into OD&D booklets by Designers & Dragons author Shannon Appelcline."
...would be even more perfect. But I'm just glad my scanning effort made the news.)
 








LoganRan

Explorer
Moldvay and Schick were working on an expert that was to push the gonzo. But then TSR saw how well the basic set did and decided to go a different route. It’s purportedly one of the reasons Schick left and Moldvay did Lords of Creation.

I’ll see if I can dig up the source when I get a chance.

Please note I reserve the right to be absolutely wrong.
I think you may be the only person on an internet forum to ever type those words... ;)
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen
The fighter also has mentions of things that we'd now associate with the paladin, like a bless aura and warhorse. The presence of percentages for all stats is also a bit weird looking. The psionic/superpower stuff is wild.
As I recall, as the Paladin first appeared in Supplement I: Greyhawk, it was something a fighter could choose to become, like a prestige class, if they met the requirements (17 Cha and Lawful, IIRC). You'd still expect those abilities to be labeled Paladin abilities, though.
 



Zaukrie

New Publisher
If someone can build a 3D mapping tool with angled walls and / or circular ones.....this took forever!
 

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