Sunday, January 30, 2022

Back to the Dark Corners of Mystara in 2022


Almost a year since my last post, and I find that I've decided to finally start running my Mystara campaign, using the 5th edition of D&D (more or less).

While I continue to read and look at other systems and settings, my goal -- to run some of the most memorable old D&D modules in an integrated, re-imagined Mystara -- is paramount in my mind.

Furthermore, several old friends are familiar with the 5th Edition rules (and I am not), so I'm counting on them to help on the mechanical side, while I focus on the setting and adventures and characters (player & game master).

That being the case, I would be remiss if I didn't mention some System + Setting RPGs that have shaped how I'm thinking about this Mystara campaign. So here they are:

Lex Arcana RPG by Acheron Books

This is a beautifully laid out and illustrated RPG that provides rich source material for running a setting with a Roman Empire that did not fall.

For someone trying to replicate this aspect of the Roman Empire (for the Thyatian Empire, of course) this is a gold mine not only about the political, cultural, and military telling details of the Empire -- it comes with its own ready rationale for adventurers in this setting.
In Lex Arcana, you are a Custos (warden) of the Cohors Auxiliaria Arcana, sent by the Emperor to the four corners of the world to further the study of arcane lore, investigate forbidden cults, and face the thread posed by dangerous supernatural creatures.
Very clearly explained setting with a lot of authentic-sounding (I'm not an expert, so I'll trust Acheron Books here) terminology for weaponry, armor, social status, military and political organizations, and so on. It also shows how the many conquered lands and provinces of the Empire have been integrated into it, so it is quite useful for my own questions about how similar Thyatian provinces might be handled.

It's entirely possible that some day I'll play the game as is -- but for now, I'll plunder its contents for my campaign. I'm already looking at a customized Castra (found in the sourcebook Encyclopaedia Arcana -- see image below) to replace the Keep in the classic B2: Keep on the Borderlands.

Also, because the Roman Roads were such an important aspect of the Empire, it meshes with my idea for the Roadwardens campaign (which I had originally lifted from WFRP), giving a different campaign frame from the traditional adventuring party.

If you're similarly interested on good material for your Roman Empire-inspired RPG source material, I highlight recommend their books.

Mythic Constantinople by The Design Mechanism

For almost the same reason, I've picked up this sourcebook for the game system Mythras by the folks at The Design Mechanism. While I do not intend to use the playable character classes and races listed in this well-researched and detail-rich book, they will add also to the source material for Thyatis (which has been stated to be a Byzantium-inspired setting) -- geography, history, politics, organizations, and religions are all here for use and enriching the default Karameikos / Thyatis aspects of Mystara.

The emphasis on recreating a mythical version of the city and setting, rather than a purely historical one, is also quite good for my purposes. It adds to the mystery, the intrigue, and the implied danger that permeates the city, and emanates across the rest of the Empire.

Questions for you, dear reader:

  1. Are there other books out there that you've repurposed for your game settings? What are they?
  2. Are there other aspects of the Mystara setting that you've gleefully edited and replaced with something from some other setting -- D&D or otherwise?