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D&D General UPDATE: this isn't greenlit : Jeff Grubb's Lost Mystara Sourcebook To Be Released

Ex-TSR designer Jeff Grubb wrote a Known World of Mystara sourcebook for AD&D 2E that was sadly never published. But now WotC has given permission for it's release to Shawn Stanley of the Vaults of Pandius website, the Official Mystara Homepage!

mystara.png


Grubb posted on Facebook:

"A long time ago I wrote a project for TSR converting the Known World of Mystara from D&D to AD&D 2nd Edition. Through a tale of woe and intrigue, (link below) that product was never completed, and instead became Karameikos, Kingdom of Adventure.

However, I kept a copy of the unfinished manuscript (well, print-out), and a short while ago, gave it to Shawn Stanley, who runs the Pandius Website. He in turn has cleaned it up a bit, and plans to release it, free, with WotC's blessing, to fans on the website's anniversary.

It is really nice to see this surface after so many years - it is a "Lost Tome" of D&D history, and I hope fans of the setting enjoy it."


He speaks more about the story, and why he left TSR, on his blog.

Mystara is a D&D campaign setting first published in the early 1980s, and was the 'default' setting for D&D for a long time.


Updates from @Dungeonosophy

Jeff Grubb gives an overview of the book on his blog

As for the release date: Shawn Stanley, Webmaster of the Vaults of Pandius, announced (here) that June 27th is the planned release date.

Some people were wondering if Jeff is involved in the release.

I reached out to Shawn Stanley on April 10th:
"Yes I was going to reach out to him with respect to providing some sort of foreword for the release. I had been intending to do so once I had finished the graphic design - but with the release of new news yesterday, I reached out to him yesterday. I also wanted to get his okay for the editing that I had done. But yes, I would think that anything that Jeff wants to write to accompany the document would be a great idea. I do kind of agree that something a little bit less-depressing than the blog posts might be preferable - something to celebrate the release than recall the negative things that had happened during that time."
"I do hope that he will agree."


Jeff also responded to me on April 10th:
"Shawn has been in touch with me, and I will be glad to write a brief foreword for the project."

Which will be a fulfillment of Jeff's offer back in 2019:
"If you succeed [with the petition], I will be glad to provide an intro with a less-depressing history of the project."

Note Vaults of Pandius is the Official Mystara Homepage! Given that designation by WotC, back in the 2000s, when Jim Butler was managing fan policy for "other worlds." There's an official agreement and everything. That's why the site is the natural host for this.

UPDATE:
WotC's approval of this sourcebook's release have been premature, i.e. it isn't greenlit.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So we shall make sure all villainy societies resemble American/euro societies. Got it.
Mod Note:
It is entirely unclear what constructive result you felt would come out of this snarkiness.

Next time, make that result clear. If there is no constructive result, then keep your snarkiness to yourself, please and thanks.
 


The Glen

Hero
I've been working on the Mystara 5E for years now. The setting doesn't translate into 5E well, because it's pretty nuanced as a setting.

Red Steel would need a complete rewrite, the legacies are hard to translate mechanically. Plus not sure how new players would handle the 'wear this magic amulet or else you mutate to death' part of Red Steel. The nations are either the Iberian themed baronies, or you've got the Franks and the Celts human nations. Fluffwise it's fine, but the rules would strain 5E's rules light approach.

Hollow World harkens to ancient times with Greeks, Egyptians, and Aztecs as the dominant empires. Heavy restrictions on magic, many spells aren't present and the driving theme about lack of free will and cultural stagnation might rub some the wrong way. On the other hand, lots and lots of dinosaurs.

The Known World has a few problem nations, but for different reasons. Ylaruam was an early attempt at nation-building but left everything outside of history and national government blank. No NPCs, no cities in any detail except a small village, everything was fill in the blank. Interesting concept, but didn't age well because it was the only one of its kind in the series. Ierendi had a lot of 80's pop culture references that aged out. Nine of the ten islands were played straight, but most people only remember the safari island with its fake adventures. Atruaghin is notorious for how incomplete it was. Five different allegories for various tribes, but hardly any real information on them. There's no government, no real NPCs, the nation even gets left out of its own timeline halfway through its own history. The author infamously had an impossible deadline, and the book suffered from it. I had to completely rewrite the entire nation to make it coherent.

The setting isn't going to sit well with some people. People have talked about colonialism but this is a setting where the largest empire on the continent is basically Imperial Rome. The beauty is that in all the different cultures, there is no nation that is a defined bad guy nation. Ethengar might be the villains in Glantri, but they are solid allies of Rockhome. There are villains in each nation, but they don't define the nation. The national stereotypes are of the fantasy versions of the nation. Thyatians are treacherous but practical. Darokinians are profit-driven but generous. Minrothadians are humorless but overachievers.

The setting is popular outside of the US because the gazetteers were translated into so many languages early on. The cultures included tend to be obscure, and the people of those cultures are delighted to have a culture that reflects them. Most of the people I talked to wanted their culture represented as heroic types, even if you had to fudge a bit on the historical accuracy. You do the research, and people will appreciate it. Change something too much and you've moved it away from what people liked about it in the first place.
 

The beauty is that in all the different cultures, there is no nation that is a defined bad guy nation. Ethengar might be the villains in Glantri, but they are solid allies of Rockhome.
If anything, Glantri and Alphatia were the closest to villainous nations, if only because having a bunch of temperamental living nuclear bombs ruling two nations will make everyone around them very uncomfortable.
 

AnotherGuy

Explorer
I've been working on the Mystara 5E for years now.
I have your previous work and it is great! Thank you.

The beauty is that in all the different cultures, there is no nation that is a defined bad guy nation. Ethengar might be the villains in Glantri, but they are solid allies of Rockhome. There are villains in each nation, but they don't define the nation. The national stereotypes are of the fantasy versions of the nation. Thyatians are treacherous but practical. Darokinians are profit-driven but generous. Minrothadians are humorless but overachievers.

The setting is popular outside of the US because the gazetteers were translated into so many languages early on. The cultures included tend to be obscure, and the people of those cultures are delighted to have a culture that reflects them. Most of the people I talked to wanted their culture represented as heroic types, even if you had to fudge a bit on the historical accuracy. You do the research, and people will appreciate it. Change something too much and you've moved it away from what people liked about it in the first place.
So much this!
It was/is an appreciation of the diversity of cultures and people in humanity's history within a fantasy setting.
 

The Glen

Hero
If anything, Glantri and Alphatia were the closest to villainous nations, if only because having a bunch of temperamental living nuclear bombs ruling two nations will make everyone around them very uncomfortable.
Alphatia had to be taken down a notch because as written it could curb stomp everybody. That was a huge problem with sending them into the hollow world. You've got a nation of high powered Wizards wielding unheard of spells with a modern army and air force against nations trapped in the bronze age. Now they are portrayed as being still powerful but the Wizards are too wrapped up in their own activities to be bothered working together.

Glantri would be more dangerous but the nation is so dysfunctional as a whole they aren't a threat outside their borders. The only thing they hate more than each other is everybody else. It's called Fantasy Yugoslavia for a reason.
 


The Glen

Hero
How would this need to be rewritten to make it fit as a setting?
Tie the nations together better. Since it was written one book at a time older books would often contradict newer books.

Fill in the unfinished books. Create new rules for the endemic races and variant magics unique to it.

Chapters on exploration and rulership, possibly even one on ascending to Immortality.

Detail on why it's not a kitchen sink and why it has restrictions built in to the setting. Don't worry about Savage Coast, Hollow World or Blackmoor right now, don't overwhelm new players.

Lots of new subclasses based on historical warriors. Klantyre Gallowglasses. Darokin merchant princes. Atruaghin Spirit Shaman. Ostlandic Wise Women. Atruaghin braves. Ylari Faris. There's dozens of more options probably too many to fit in a single book.

Don't just start changing characters to fit a quota. The game has plenty of variety but it's spread out across nations. A traladaran merchant is going to look out of place in Ethengar and vice versa. Few nations are ethnically diverse, while others are melting pots.

And set the plot before WOTI ruined the setting by blowing up all the bad guys.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I am surfing sites relating to the Elves of Mystara.

I have mixed feelings about how to represent them in 5e, whether to make them different cultures of the same kind of Elf, or make them different kinds of Elves. Mystara seems to do both.

5e Tashas is excellent here, because players can officially swap the ability score improvements and swap the proficiencies. This allows the same kind of Elf to embrace completely different cultures.

• The Bards with Charisma score +2 and Intelligence score +1 are "well known for their poetry, dance, song, lore".
• The Wizards of Blackmoor with Intelligence score +2 and Wisdom score +1 swap out their longsword for Alchemist Tools.
• Meanwhile, Dexterity +2, Intelligence +1, Eldritch Knights are typical military across certain regions. Many Eldritch Knights are Strength +2.
• And Water Elves, Dexterity +2 Intelligence +1 coastal-seafaring-terrain Rangers sailing the waters of the world, swapping in Rapier, Ship Vehicle, and Survival.

And so on. The breadth of diversity that these swaps allow suits the cosmopolitan tone of the Mystara setting. The Elves are diverse, and competent.



I find it helpful to list the two or three classes that are prominent in each culture or subculture. "Prominent" means prestigious. Whether the members of the class are few or many, the culture tends to know about it and revolve around it. In some cultures, one of the prominent class might be Lawyer Lore Bard, in other cultures the prominent class might be Bladesinger Wizard, and in other cultures Moon Druid.

The choices for the ability scores lean toward the prominent classes.

Likewise, each culture lists the most prominent weapons, tools, skills, and languages.

Many or most members of a culture dont belong to the two or three prominent classes, and will have abilities and proficiencies unrelated to them. Likewise, player characters from any culture can choose whatever class, abilities, and proficiencies they wish.

When describing a Mystara Elf, make clear that the player character has choices for the abilities and proficiencies. Then list suggestions separately for each culture, which the player or DM may or may not want to follow closely.



The fluidity of each culture and subculture helps counteract any feel of racial essentialism.

By the way, while reading the old school descriptions of Elf, the trope that an Elf is an "ethically Good haughty racist" occasionally happens. This racism is icky, and like 4e and 5e, I hope 5e Mystara ends this trope decisively.



Some differences between the Mystara Elves involve other areas of the design space. For example, Sea Elves (not to be confused with Water Elves) breathe water. Moreover, I feel that some nocturnal or subterranean cultures should have darkvision, while some daytime cultures should not. Swapping darkvision for a cantrip or an other proficiency is fair. Perhaps Gills can itself be understood as a cantrip to breathe water. While there is an option to try make certain 5e Elf subraces fit into Mystara, it might be more useful to design a new Elf for Mystara that can easily swap these kinds of traits, while comparing specific cultures in mind.
 



Parmandur

Book-Friend
Or you could give them the lore of the Shadar-Kai from 4E, and steer clear of any "this entire race of people always looks and acts like this" ickiness.

For all its faults, 4E had some excellent lore.
Well, I would assume they would use the Mystarra Shadow Elves lore. I'm saying keep the lore, use the existing 5E Dark Elf stats from the PHB. No change required.
 

And set the plot before WOTI ruined the setting by blowing up all the bad guys.
Alternately, since they're going to want to clean up the presentations of multiple nations, leading to certain sectors howling about "mah canon" (whether or not that's actually the root of their outrage), they could also just skip the timeline forward 25 years or so, so that the changes happened over the course of the passage of time.

Mystara had an advancing calendar starting with the publication of the first Poor Wizard's Almanac in 1992. The timeline hasn't officially moved forward since Joshuan's almanac in 1995, unless we count the Isle of Dread's appearance in the Savage Tide, although I'd argue we shouldn't, since that's an Oerth version of the setting. I think it's OK to start the clock again and jump it forward some more.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
Alternately, since they're going to want to clean up the presentations of multiple nations, leading to certain sectors howling about "mah canon" (whether or not that's actually the root of their outrage), they could also just skip the timeline forward 25 years or so, so that the changes happened over the course of the passage of time.

Mystara had an advancing calendar starting with the publication of the first Poor Wizard's Almanac in 1992. The timeline hasn't officially moved forward since Joshuan's almanac in 1995, unless we count the Isle of Dread's appearance in the Savage Tide, although I'd argue we shouldn't, since that's an Oerth version of the setting. I think it's OK to start the clock again and jump it forward some more.
WotC doesn't do metaplot, though. A reset to the start is more likely (thin chance though it seems) to bring in 80's nostalgia than to continue with the 90's developments.
 


I'm not overly familiar, why not?
They're underground refugees living near a nuclear reactor. They're not a magical race analogous to drow, other than they live underground.

They're essentially the 1960s/1970s science fiction trope of people living underground after an apocalypse. They're science fiction characters more than magical.

Naturally, the reactor they're living next to also has magical effects, because D&D, but it's not at all comparable to the drow's powers.

They are a distinct subrace.
 

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