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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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The Glen

Hero
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.
The thing with the shadow elves is that the population isn't large or spread out. Just one city and some nearby outposts.

The race is quite naive as their king has been hiding the truth about the surface. Shadow elves that make it to the surface are free to think for themselves. They still keep their identity secret though for safety reasons.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
All the folks who are upset about the barely explained changes in Ravenloft would likely disagree with you.

Each edition of the Forgotten Realms has also advanced the setting (for certain values of "advanced").

That's not metaplot; it's the opposite of metaplot, it retconned a bunch of material, like Viktor into Viktra Modenheim.

That's not a complaint by the way, I find most of the changes positive.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
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.
Still doesn't seem too much of a stretch to me. If I ran a Mystara game (the Goodman Games Isle of Dread is tempting, thinking about setting Saltmarsh along the coast to start off), I'd just use the Drow stats if someone wanted to be a Shadow Elf.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
All the folks who are upset about the barely explained changes in Ravenloft would likely disagree with you.

Each edition of the Forgotten Realms has also advanced the setting (for certain values of "advanced").
That's almost the opposite of a metaplot, setting everything back to a new starting point with no particular reference to what came before or expectation of future development. The book also sets up that what was done before in old books could show up in the Mists at any time, because Timey-Wimey shennanigans/multiverse/it's all an illusion anyways.
 

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.
They don't? They certainly aren't doing as much of it as they used to, but I definitely remember an NPC showing up in multiple adventures in different stages, and there are elements of some adventures that refer to things going on in others.

In Storm King's Thunder, the PCs take a ride in a cloud giant's tower. During this ride, the tower gets accosted by a group of Howling Hatred cultists seeking the giant's assistance in their plans, which is what the Princes of the Apocalypse adventure is about. In addition, one of the possible personal plot hooks in Princes of the Apocalypse is that you've been asked by the Belabranta noble family in Waterdeep to investigate one of their wayward scions, Savra, who has joined up with some ne'erdowells called the Feathergale Society who, to the surprise of no-one, are involved with the Cult of the Howling Hatred. You're supposed to return Savra to her family. Savra shows up later in Dragon Heist, as a questgiver associated with the Order of the Gauntlet, and the adventure mentions that she's atoning for evil deeds she performed as part of the Cult of the Howling Hatred.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
They don't? They certainly aren't doing as much of it as they used to, but I definitely remember an NPC showing up in multiple adventures in different stages, and there are elements of some adventures that refer to things going on in others.

In Storm King's Thunder, the PCs take a ride in a cloud giant's tower. During this ride, the tower gets accosted by a group of Howling Hatred cultists seeking the giant's assistance in their plans, which is what the Princes of the Apocalypse adventure is about. In addition, one of the possible personal plot hooks in Princes of the Apocalypse is that you've been asked by the Belabranta noble family in Waterdeep to investigate one of their wayward scions, Savra, who has joined up with some ne'erdowells called the Feathergale Society who, to the surprise of no-one, are involved with the Cult of the Howling Hatred. You're supposed to return Savra to her family. Savra shows up later in Dragon Heist, as a questgiver associated with the Order of the Gauntlet, and the adventure mentions that she's atoning for evil deeds she performed as part of the Cult of the Howling Hatred.
There are hooks and hints of possibilities, but not like 90's metaplot.
 

That's not metaplot; it's the opposite of metaplot, it retconned a bunch of material, like Viktor into Viktra Modenheim.
I think it's actually poorly explained metaplot: Something cataclysmic happened in Darkon involving Azalin. A bunch of changes happened to Ravenloft, entirely possibly due to whatever that scamp Azalin was wrapped up in.

I think some of the folks involved in the development of the book clearly believe we had a Grand Conjunction II or something, but the actual explicit mention doesn't show up in the book. My guess is that there was a communication breakdown somewhere along the way.
 

Still doesn't seem too much of a stretch to me. If I ran a Mystara game (the Goodman Games Isle of Dread is tempting, thinking about setting Saltmarsh along the coast to start off), I'd just use the Drow stats if someone wanted to be a Shadow Elf.
You could do that, but it makes about as much sense as giving them lizardfolk stats.

The better baseline would be to just use high or wood elf stats for them.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
Mystara models reallife cultures. When I see the names from Norse cultural heritage, such as Viking and Alfheim, I hope to see them presented in an informed way.

The Norse "Alfar" is very different from the various British concepts of "Elf". Most importantly, the Alfar is a being of the sky relating to sunlight, while the Elf is a Celtic-Sidhe-inspired being of the land relating to fertile vegetation.

The Elf is typically nocturnal (whence darkvision); the Alfar is sunlight itself (whence without darkvision).

Both the Norse Alfar and the British Elf personify fate and magic, and are stunningly goodlooking. They have much in common. But it is important to understand the cultural differences.



In Norse tradition, Alfheimr is a home in the sky, high above the highest clouds, where the government of the Alfar resides. The Alfar have a Norse aboriginal leader, equivalent to an elected jarl, called a "Songster", a Ljodi (Ljóδi), referring to the warrior magic of protecting and healing. Above the clouds, the entire sky is their "longhouse" and the dome-like open endless sky is their "roof". The sun is "the radiance of the Alfar".

Alfar are animistic "beings" (vaettir). They are the normal sunlight itself, thus permeate the world wherever sunrays shine, reflect brightly, and beam thru forests. They illuminate, reveal, and inform the world. These sky beings shape good fates for individual humans, including birth, falling in love, giving birth, achieving success and fame, and an honorable death. The Alfar are shamans, and superlative masters of every kind of magic.

The minds of the Alfar are wherever sunlight shines. The desire of the sunlight is to be sunlight. So humans tend to take these minds for granted. Sometimes, the minds of these sunrays manifest physically to take the form of a human (or a swan or a snake or so on). However, when an Alfar mind takes on a human form, they are a human in almost every way, and become part of the human world. They can have children with humans. Their physical appearance exhibits the telltale hints of their solar origin. Folkbelief witnesses them shining luminously with an aura of gentle sunlight.

The Alfar have glowing skyblue eyes, cloudwhite skin, goldsun shining hair, and so on. The skyey imagery is significant. For D&D, to open up the ethnic human appearances, the Alfar can have any complexion that is a color of the sky, including the bluish black skin of morning twilight, dawnrose eyes, and so on. The Alfar sunlight can manifest in the form of any ethnicity of human.

The appearance of an Alfar looks human except luminously so, and exhibiting superhuman beauty. For example the Alfar have rounded ears like humans do. (Nevertheless if a particular Alfar happens to have shapeshifted into a wolf, the human form might keep residual characteristics from the earlier form, such as pointed wolf ears. If into a swan, might have feathery hair, or webbed feet. Or so on. Norse shapeshifting seems always incomplete, with subtle evidence of original form. An animal form might have human eyes, a human form might be damp and wet around the lower hems from a water being, or so on.)

The Alfar exhibit solar and skyey features, and the magical influence of their mind is potent. Because of these skyey aspects, the D&D stats for the Alfar lineage can be nonidentical with the Human lineage.



The D&D tradition has explored less the concept of an animistic nature being. But D&D can. In the same way that animistic shamans do, the mind of a natural feature can project outward from the feature and manifest in the form of a human (or animal). This "human" is a playable D&D character. Most of the character concept is narrative background without mechanics. Normal lineage options can represent aspects of the original natural feature. High magic defers until higher level. According to the folkbelief, a newly manifesting being is less powerful.

The features of nature that are in the Material Plane − in this case sunlight − have minds and are persons. A person whose mind is sensitive can sense and even interact with the minds of these beings.

The minds are ultimately non-anthropomorphic and alien to human ways of thinking. Every now and then a feature of nature can become mindfully active and manifest outwardly in the form of a human. (Compare how the mind of a Norse shaman can project outofbody to manifest into the form of a bear.) (There is a saga that goes into some detail about how the mind of a mountain becomes a human and has a human family, then decides to return to a nonhuman existence, and becomes the mind of a similar but different mountain elsewhere.) The mind leaves the natural feature to become the body of a human, but maintains a connection to the original natural feature. At the same time, the mind can abandon the original natural feature and become the mind of a different natural feature within the Material Plane.

For a minds taking on the forms of a human, being human is new to them. The can get lost in their humanness. They need to learn to be a human well. They can fall in love with other humans. And so on. They can also miss being their natural feature.

For D&D gaming, this Alfar "human" is a level 1 playable character. Not exactly a human but human enough.

The mind of the nature being can manifest as either a fullgrown adult without a childhood or manifest as a child and grow up into an adult. Players choice. If the character dies, the mind reverts to its natural feature in the Material Plane. The character can be resurrected by a spell, and so on, as normal. (The death of a manifestation can end in an interesting effect. For example, an earthdark Dvergar who dies then petrifies into stone. If then resurrected, the mind from the original stone source will manifest a new body nearby the old one that is now a rock formation. Perhaps the death of an Alfar vanishes in a gleam of gentle sunlight as the mind reverts to sunlight.) The playable character advances normally. If the Alfar reverts to sunlight while alive, the mind can manifest in human form later. If the Alfar dies and no resurrection happens, the mind of the sunlight can reincarnate later in an other form, as a new character at level 1.

For a character to be a manifest nature being is mostly character concept and background narrative with little or no mechanics. At higher levels there can be options (perhaps spells) to revert back-and-forth between the nature form and the human form. However, at low levels while less powerful, to not be able to return is a thing in some folkbeliefs as they get lost in their humanness and lose their way back. At higher levels, if an Alfar reverts to sunlight, the character is moreorless removed from the game, except that a spell or other option might allow prescience to scry wherever direct sunlight shines.

All of these folkbelief concepts are within normal D&D mechanics.



Virtually all Alfar are fullcaster mages. The Alfar personify magic, including in the sense of reweaving fate.

For Norse shamanic magic, Bard and Druid can express the prescience, mind-manipulation, animal shapeshifting, and elemental magic.

For the Norse warrior magic relating to the Songs, a Cleric that feels more like a Paladin but is better at magic, is useful to express healing, abjuration, and other forms of protective magic. Note, it is considered unfair and cowardly for a Norse warrior to use magic against an opponent. But it seems fine to use magic to heal, defend, and empower oneself − even to self-induce a Berserkar trance − and even to manifest a fateful victory against an opponent − as long as the battle is face-to-face and courageous.

All magic by a natural feature is done by the mind of the feature. The feature itself is perceived to be in a trance while the mind is elsewhere. It is mindful magic, and the Psion, as well as psionics generally, are appropriate for the Norse culture.



There are three ways for D&D to represent Alfheimr.

First and most importantly, Alfheimr is the normal sunny sky high above the clouds. The natural sunlight has minds and is a community of families.

Second, sometimes a human with Sight can see an Alfar hovering around up in the sky. Possibly this folkbelief can be explained by the minds of sunlight manifesting the human forms in the Ethereal Plane, an aspect of the Fey Plane that closely overlaps the natural features of the Material Plane, or a Dreamscape that includes the thoughts of natural features. The explanation depends on the cosmology of the setting. Despite seeming embodied, these minds are never actually separate from sunlight of the Material Plane.

The third way to represent Alfheimr is a place on land. There is, in fact, a second Alfheimr that is a coastal region with inland forests. Traditions about it are conflictive, but the main concept is, there is a family of Alfar who manifested there as humans. They became a prominent family among the humans who became part of their community there. The luminous beauty of these Alfar, including their skyblue eyes and sunshining hair, became famous.



For Mystara, the "Alfheim" of the Forest Elves if tweaked to be more authentically Norse can be the earthly Alfheimr. If so, Forest Elves can be these humanized Alfar. Perhaps they especially self-identify as the sunbeams thru forest trees. Prominently, they are a culture of fullcasters.

Elsewhere, it is ok if the Forest Elves venture off to evolve into different kinds of cultures.

Still. In those areas of Mystara where reallife names and concepts from the Scandinavian cultural heritage appear − like Alfheim, Alfar, Viking, and so on − I would like them to feel more authentically Norse.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
You don't have to be 1990s White Wolf to have metaplot. The official books advancing the setting is a metaplot, however meaty or lightly sketched it might be.
But the Sword Coast books aren't advancing any timeline, they jump all around a few year period about the same time. They are building a collective static sandbox, that can all be used together or separately in a modular fashion. There is a meta aspect here, but it is a metasetting not metaplot.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
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.
Are the Shadow Elves nonmagical? It seems like they tend to be Wizards of unusually high Intelligence.

Regarding light sensitivity, I consider the increased darkvision distance along with sensitivity to be a wash. Anyone can swap normal darkvision for sensitive darkvision or visaversa and it is no problem. The extra distance can be a strong advantage for maintaining stealth and sniping. The sunlight can be normally avoided if one plans around it. It is a wash.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
All elves are highly magical Mystara. Shadow elves are unusual in they have a dedicated cleric class exclusive to them while other elves have an arcane class that mixes in some druids spells.
And if they are a magical culture who live underground and who like stealth, it seems like the Drow Darkness spells would feel ok for the Shadow Elf concept, no? (And a Cleric too!)

It occurs to me, perhaps the Shadow Elf will turn out to resemble more the Aevendrow?
 

But the Sword Coast books aren't advancing any timeline, they jump all around a few year period about the same time. They are building a collective static sandbox, that can all be used together or separately in a modular fashion. There is a meta aspect here, but it is a metasetting not metaplot.
It's a metaplot by edition. The Forgotten Realms in 6E will be set at some point in the future after Forgotten Realms 5E and then stay essentially static. In 7E, it'll jump forward again.

Again, it doesn't have to be White Wolf advancing the metaplot every five minutes in the 1990s to be a metaplot. WotC's worlds show the passage of time.
 

And if they are a magical culture who live underground and who like stealth, it seems like the Drow Darkness spells would feel ok for the Shadow Elf concept, no? (And a Cleric too!)
By that argument, why aren't we giving out freebie darkness to dwarves, goblins, kobolds and gnomes?

It's not who the shadow elves are. It's a lot easier to just say "use High Elves for shadow elves" rather than pretend they're drow.

Best, IMO, for a 5E Mystara would be to create their own subrace, though.

For folks who are interested in the Shadow Elves, their gazetteer is available at DMs Guild.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
It's a metaplot by edition. The Forgotten Realms in 6E will be set at some point in the future after Forgotten Realms 5E and then stay essentially static. In 7E, it'll jump forward again.

Again, it doesn't have to be White Wolf advancing the metaplot every five minutes in the 1990s to be a metaplot. WotC's worlds show the passage of time.
Not necessarily. I'd leave the Sword Coast in the same time period forever, and just go to another region.
 

Are the Shadow Elves nonmagical? It seems like they tend to be Wizards of unusually high Intelligence.
Mystara was originally the setting for Basic D&D, and in Basic D&D all elves were essentially fighter/magic-users. Basic didn't differentiate between race and class – the original classes were Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric, Thief, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling (some more were added in sourcebooks and expansions).
 

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