Wednesday, February 18, 2015

[Mystara] Lawrence Schick Answers Q's on the Original Known World

Lawrence Schick has finally gotten a chance to answer a few of the questions I put to him regarding the Original Known World as developed by him and Tom Moldvay. Here are the answers to those questions, plus a newly updated version of the Original Known World map.

1) Where are the homelands for the Dwarves, Elves, and Gnomes? Why no Halflings?
  • The Known World was predominantly populated by humans; the most common nonhuman race was the orcs. The races D&D later called “demihumans” were vestiges of an ancient pre-human world.
  • Elves build no cities and found no nations. They live in small settlements in wooded areas, away from humanity; some tribes are nomadic, migrating according to rules humans don’t understand. The largest concentration of elves is in the Canolbarth Forest.
  • Dwarves were once more numerous in the mountains, but now the Seven Strongholds have dwindled to one: Rockhome, high in the Altan Tepe mountains.
  • Gnomes may live almost anywhere, but they are elusive and keep to themselves. They are numerous only in the city-state of Gugonix, but even there they are outnumbered by humans.
  • Halflings are common in the Republic of Darokin the valley of the Qeda, and their realm of Axhonief constitutes one of the Principalities of Glantri.
2) Were Kzinti and Tharks considered playable races, and where were their homelands? One blogger suggests that Tom Moldvay developed the Rakasta from the Kzinti; do you recall if this is true?
  • In the Known World campaign, Kzinti were playable as PCs, but Tharks were not, as they were too weird.
  • Both were nomadic tribes, the Tharks on the Ethengar Steppes, the Kzinti on the Plains of Mnokki. Kzinti organized into mercenary companies that hired out across the western Known World, but the Tharks were barbarians who were enemies of anyone they met.
  • The Rakasta (introduced in Isle of Dread) were absolutely Tom Moldvay’s D&D version of the Kzinti. BTW, the Tabaxi from the Fiend Folio were my version of the Kzinti, to Tom and I got them into both D&D and AD&D
3) How close were the TSR Known World’s cultures and governments to the Original Known World’s? For example, was the Original Known World’s Glantri ruled by wizards?
  • They were mostly pretty close, since our Original Known World cultures largely had obvious Earth history equivalents. In Gorllewin the city-state of Glantri was ruled by wizards, but there were other Principalities that were not, such as the halfling state of Axhonief.
4) Do you recall the cultural equivalents of your human cultures? Some are fairly obvious, others a bit mysterious. Was the list derived from the army/culture list in Chainmail?
  • Definitely not derived from the army/culture list in Chainmail, as we didn’t see those rules until after we’d come up with our own list. Tell me which cultures you find mysterious and I’ll try to clear them up for you.
5) Are there more maps and/or information sheets you can reveal at this time?
  • This is everything I've got right now, but my friends in Akron might turn up some more, and seeing these have certainly triggered my recollections. Stay tuned…
So as you can see, the reply opens up even further questions... Did the ancient pre-human world include the predecessors of the Carnifex (my theory: the Carnifex were inspired by the Dragon Kings from Lin Carter's Thongar series). Are the Quastog of the Canolbarth half-elves or half-orcs or even further mixed? And I need to put together a list of my guesses for the cultures and their inspirations... And what about the history of the world? The heroes and villains, the events in the several campaigns that took place before Lawrence and Tom went to TSR? Was White Plume Mountain originally set in the Original Known World? So many questions...

This new version of the map takes into account the information on the other races and places them appropriately. I'm still not certain as to the wide-spread nature of the Orcs; that's another question I have for Lawrence. I've also re-calibrated the hex counts; note that the original map has a counting error in it, jumping from column 55 to 60, so rather than 100 columns of hexes there are actually only 96.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

[Mystara] The Original Known World

Lawrence Schick, one of the early designers of Dungeons & Dragons at TSR, has revealed some interesting maps that detail the Original Known World that he and Tom Moldvay used in their Kent, Ohio Dungeons & Dragons campaign. If the "Known World" sounds familiar, it is because it is the world that was used in the 1981 edition of Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons, revealed in the module X1: The Isle of Dread and detailed further in the Expert Set book (notably detailing the Grand Duchy of Karameikos). He has posted several maps and note sheets with this article on the Black Gate website.

Read that article first if you have not already read it; then come on back here and check out the maps.

It is not exactly the same world, but instead is obviously the progenitor of the Known World that eventually evolved into Mystara. When Tom Moldvay, David Cook, and the rest of the development team for B/X needed to use a world, they went back and borrowed from Moldvay and Schick's Original Known World. Many of the names and ideas survived; you can also see much of the TSR Known World geography owes its design to the Original Known World's eastern half.

So as usual, when I get excited about mapping stuff, especially when it comes to one of my favorite campaign settings, I kind of took the maps presented and ran with them...

In all cases, right click and open in another window for the best view. For larger versions of the maps or the original Hexographer files, you can e-mail me at

First, here's Moldvay and Schick's Original Known World maps knitted together with annotations of location names:

Second, here's the Hexographer version of the Western Known World:

Third, here's the Hexographer version of the Eastern Known World:

And finally, here's both ends of the Original Known World knitted together...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

[From the Vaults] Isles of Ages

So I've finally gotten around to sorting through a few boxes of old campaign materials from our storage, and have found a LOT of cool stuff, much of which I have forgotten. Here's a scan of the map I drew for my Isles of Ages campaign setting, a portion of which, Lost Dragonia, was featured in Fight On #10. The Isle of Ages is a classic "lost world" campaign setting, complete with dinosaurs, cavemen, vikings, conquistadors, amazons, Lovecraftian beings, and a few daikaiju-style gods...

Maybe someday I'll get around to doing more with this setting.

Right Click to Embiggen...