Friday, August 12, 2022

My Mystara Campaign that Never Was

Cover for GAZ-1 Gazetteer of the Known
World: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos
 I have run quite a few games set in the Mystara campaign setting in multiple editions of Dungeons & Dragons. As a kid I ran a few short campaigns in The Grand Duchy of Karameikos using BECMI. In Junior High I ran an AD&D2e mini campaign set on a few islands between Karamaikos and The Minrothad Guilds.  And I also ran a campaign that transitioned from BECMI to AD&D2e that was set ostensibly in Karameikos, the Broken Lands, and later The Isle of Dawn.

In 2005, I got nostalgic for Mystara and spent several days creating my own massive 3e conversion for it... and then disscovered the brnd new Vaults of Pandius had done a better job. Using a mix of my own conversion and theirs I ran a campaign I called "Mystara A-go-go" which involved the PCs freely travelling Mystara following clues of a dead treasure hunter from Karameikos to Minrothad to Irendi to the Five Shires, Darokin, Glantri, Norwold, and into the Thyatian Empire. (with stops in Pandius and Patera)

In 2007 I followed that one up with another campaign that strung Wrath of the Immortals, Adventures in Blackmoor, and Temple of the Frog into a single time-spanning adventure that covered  the entire secret history of Mystara from Blackmoor to the Cataclysm, to the creation of the Hollow World, to the Day of Wrath.

Recently, I've been getting the Mystara bug again, but I have decided to let it be. I have two campaigns right now that are taking up enough attention. But to scratch the itch at least a little, I wanted to share a campaign idea I was working on in 2005 that I never used. Maybe someone else will have use of it.


Map of the Alatian Islands from GAZ-0:
Dawn of the Emperors
Most of this campaign is set on Gaity, a location on the Alatian Islands that always intrigued me. Gaity is an Island converted into an amusement park. It has luxury hotels, museums, rare shops. Mock dungeons where bored Alphatian aristocrats can fight illusions and captive monsters to collect curated "treasures." Not to mention casinos, exotic magical brothels, and displays of magic and illusion the like of which could be found nowhere else on the face of Mystara.

Gaity was never well-detailed. It is described only briefly in GAZ0: Dawn of the Emperors, and, while an important part of Wrath of the Immortals occurs on neighbouring Aegos, it isn't given much more detail there. you are left to the imagination as to what goes on there, but suffice it to say with an admission of 5,000gp a day, it ought to be as staggering and decadent a resort as the magic-obsessed Alphatian Empire can manage. Here's its entry in GAZ0:

Island/ Nation: Gaity. City: Rainbow Park. The easternmost island is given over to amusements, recreation and pleasure. It is a resort  for entertainments. All over the island, but especially concentrated in the city of Rainbow Park, are to be found suangc amusements: Dragon-rides upon captured beasts, simulated earthquakes, non-lethal training  grounds for dungeon explorers, theatre communities where magicians with impersonate spells help visitors act out their most personal fantasies, and so on. All entertainments are free, but staying on the island costs a tremendous amount of money-a minimum of 5,000 gp per day-which is divided among all the island's operators in proportions determined by the King of Gaiety.

The King of Gaity is listed as Timalta in a few sources, and as Tirumala Nuar, depending on whether you are discussing Gaiety before or after the Day of Wrath. The original queen, Tirumala Nuar, appears to have won the crown of Irendi and abdicated their rulership of Gaity some time in AC 1009.

Books from the boxed set GAZ-0: Gazetteer of the
Known World: Dawn of the Emperors: Alphatia and Thyatis

Timalta figures into drama surrounding the ruins of the Alphatian Empire later, and so makes an interesting NPC to build a campaign around.

The Day of Wrath and the Week of Dread

Wrath of the Immortals boxed set cover
At the end of the Wrath of the Immortals, the continent of Alphatia is struck by a magical superweapon that sinks it to the bottom of the ocean and nearly takes the rest of the planet with it. The god Rad (once Prince Etienne D'Amberville) is consumed by an ancient starship engine he modified to absorb magic, and for a full week no magic functions anywhere on Mystara. The immortals are so intent of picking up the pieces and preventing planetary collapse, they can barely keep it together. They certainly are in no position to save the thousands of lives lost.

Tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, and superstorms rage across the planet for most of the week.

Magic returns just before New Years Day AC 1010, leaving the world in shambles, and straining to pick up the pieces.

Putting the Two Together

I spent some time thinking about how this would look in Gaity.

Rainbow Park is crushed by tidal waves, causing mass deaths. The beautiful, impossible structures crumble into the sea. Monsters free from their zoo pens and mock dungeons break loose and stalk the flooded streets.

The most powerful and influential of Alphatia rely on their magic to work, and find it is failing. Heads of families suddenly age rapidly by hundreds of years, as the potions of longevity they had relied on fail. Other powerful mages are killed in floods and fires as the magic they try to use to abate the disaster fail mere moments after their emergency response measures begin.

In some places, the cruelest and most arrogant masters of Alphatia, no longer protected by magic, find that the High Law no longer protects them from the vengeance of the serfs who have spent their lives operating the amusement park.

Throwing the PCs Into the Deep End

Cover to B-3: Palace of the Silver Princess
The PCs will start in the middle of this technicolor nightmare. A group of Level-0 characters. They can chose to be Gaity islanders who have worked the park, or members of wealthy households here on visits, or members of one of the wealthy houses of Alphatia. Whatever the case, they may have been training in magic (if their stats suggest they could be a Cleric or Magic-User), but have not yet reached the peak of heir abilities.

During the first day, they barely survived the tsunami that rocked the island. Some survived being swept inland, others had remained high on Rainbow Parks spires, until their perch collapsed under them. Eventually they all washed up in The Palace of the Silver Princess... A mock dungeon recreated from the history of Alphatia & Glantri from the early days of Landfall. It is meant for young aristocrats to be able to enjoy the thrill of dungeon adventuring in a safe environment using dulled weapons and wands that hurl non-lethal illusionary spells.

Half the dungeon is underwater and ruined. They can come and go by way of a few rafts of debris through a crumbled wall. There is an exit to a higher ground at the other end of the dungeon, but several real monsters have gotten loose and taken up residence.

Most of them spent the first day recovering from near-drowning and injuries from the Tsunami under the care of the other survivors.

Along with the PCs there are several other survivors in the part of the ruin they have found themselves in:

  • Phirinne, a priestess of Alphatia who is struggling with her shaken faith, and is a recovering zzonga addict. She knows some practical medicine and herbalism, which allows her to do limited healing without her goddess' aid.
  • Harlan, a powerful wizard and wealthy Alphatian with a tower in Blackheart. He is used to being obeyed and quick to cane non-magicians who get in his way... Only his spells don't work, leaving him a sullen, bitter man.
  • Edea, Harlan's daughter. A Nice girl in spite of her father, keen to help. She has taken to use nets and makeshift gaffs to fish out items for the other survivors.
  • Otho, a pudgy, pampered middle-aged wizard from Alphata proper. Despite pushing 50, he has only reached 2nd level as a wizard. He inherited a fortune and has worked as a banker for most of his life. Over the story he will become leaner, stronger, braver, and more self-reliant as a support for the PCs.
  • Kyle, a burly Gaity peasant who has done hard labor in the park for years. Muscular and whip-scarred He was born intelligent, but unable to weave magic (a genetic trait for Alphatians.) He and Harlan may come to blows, as now that magicians need protection of strong men like him Kyle believes that they better damn well humble themselves; he is done being pushed around.
  • Goldfang, a goblin magician from Limn who came from Alphatia's monster nation to serve as an actor in the Rainbow Park dungeon exhibitions. He finds the mock dungeons slightly demeaning, but he understands that he is imitating other goblins. Wicked sense of humor and a knowledge of useful locations in the park. He believes the more difficult Caves of Chaos fun dungeon might have more useful materials in it.
  • Crick and Gnash , a pair of witty goblin actors who work under Goldfang at the nearby Caves of Chaos exhibit. Crick has got it together and made some fish traps. Gnash is on the verge of breakdown, and attached himself to Edea like a lost puppy.
  • Nilli, a pirate maid from Ne'er-do-well who had snuck into the park on a supply ship and has been enjoying a high life by acting like she belongs during the day, and bedding down with some impressionable mainland boy at night every night to avoid being spotted by the guards.

The PC start with dulled weapons and low-quality armor (if they wish it) rescued from the exhibit, along with a few random bits and pieces they have salvaged.

The first adventure begin when their camp is attacked while Crick and Edea are trying to collect more goods: a monster loose from a nearby aquarium (maybe a Floating Eye or Masher) nearly kills them until the PCs intercede. Crick is wounded and needs to be carried if they are going to move. The water is no longer a safe way in or out... the PCs are asked to be the scouting party and, if possible, clear a path through the dungeon to it's original entrance on higher, drier ground.

Day 2-5

Over the next four days, the PCs will hopefully work through the dungeon and make it to high ground. The NPCs encamped in the lower level can offer food, supplies, water, and healing.

Many of the tamed monsters in the dungeon have gone berserk. The tamed Decapus in the dungeon is a significant obstacle, but is weakened due to its illusion powers failing it. 

Once they are at the upper floors of the Palace of the Silver Princess, the PCs can begin a slow-moving urban hex-crawl through the ruins. Either by good fortune on a random encounter table, or by discovering a camp. the PCs will learn about a refugee camp being formed in the highest part of the park, and may even secure a guide.

The Park will be under the leadership of an arrogant mage cut from the same cloth as Harlan called Aldren, with Timalta being one of the lesser Alphatian nobles among the survivors working as a second-in-command.

I would also place a clue as to where to find this camp in the Caves of Chaos.

Treasure during this time will include a few ruined spellbooks with low-level spells, some wands that create low-powered illusions, and the mail and halberds of the park's liveried guards.

Day 6

Whatever the circumstances, on Day 6, magic will return to the world. The moment Harlan realizes this, he will smite Kyle (unless the PCs have somehow smoothed over their conflicts,) and then he will teleport away with Edea. The same event will play out all over the refugee camp, as powerful magicians gather friends and family and teleport off the Island. (More than a few of the most powerful ones teleport to their deaths, as they attempt to return directly to their homes, which no longer exist.)

A dumbfounded Timalta is left in charge of the community of refugees.

Any PCs who have reached level 1 and are interested in becoming magic users will receive tutelage from Otho, Timalta, and a few other low-level magicians who have stayed.

Day 8

The New year Celebration bringing in AC 1010 is a sombre affair, but a few additional NPCs will attempt a celebration to ring in the new year and boost hope. PCs have a chance as making themselves beacons of hope for the community. Timalta will do her best to inspire the community and move into the position of its erstwhile queen.

From the Refugee Camp

From here, the PCs be pretty much free to do as they please. Timalta will offer to pay the NPCs in magical spells, scrolls, and a few gathered resources to help the refugees move into a ruined luxury hotel, although if they won't help, she will lead that move herself.

A number of leads will give the PCs numerous opportunities to adventure in the ruins of the magical amusement park. A few I thought up in my initial planning include:

  • The Kobolds and Goblins in the Caves of Chaos fun dungeon are all citizens of Limn and Alphatian citizens. The PCs could help Goldfang convince them to help the survivors.
  • A Bassilisk on the loose has petrified many survivors near a cafe dedicated to the casual study of rarified monsters. If it is taken out, the petrified survivors might be restored.
  • A local tower served as a park infirmary, and might have vital medical supplies, and even some scrolls of remove curse, and doses of Keogthom's Ointment.
  • The real Heart of the Silver Princess is somewhere in the dungeon the PCs first inhabited on display for young adventutrers.
  • A group of Alphaks Cultists have turned the faux-demonic shrine in the Caves of Chaos into an actual temple, and are now subverting the mind of the humanoids living in the upper caverns.
  • As the floodwaters recede, Lacedons are beginning to roam the water-front, threatening fishermen and scavengers.
  • A colony of myconids once served the park by brewing potions ad living in a museum of underworld life. Approaching them and making allies could create a supply of potions to help fend off plagues beginning to appear among the survivors.
  • Chaotic survivors have begun preying on the more honest and defenseless refugees and need to be delivered some frontier justice.
  • An Arboretum of Zzonga is growing not far from the refugee camp. Drug runs are exposing NPCs, including Phirinne to danger.
  • The royal palace of Rainbow Park is full of dangerous magical guardians and traps, but weapons, magical knowledge, and treasure are there for the taking.
  • Clockwork horrors have run amok near some of the more sophisticated machines of the amusement park, and are collapsing buildings as they devour metal and reproduce more of themselves.

Add in a "fun dungeon" or two gone horribly wrong, and some random monster hunts and the struggle for survival can easily carry the game for a period of time.

The Coming of the Minrothad Guilds

Cover of Poor Wizard's Almanac
& Book of Facts
As a matter of foreshadowing, a couple of copies of Clarasana's Travels might show up in the palace or a library where the PCs can realize ahead of time that the Alatian islands might be the site of another war in short order and organize some defenses. Certainly, Timalta will want to build something to make it look as though the island can defend itself.

In the early Spring (in keeping with the events of the Poor Wizard's Almanac and Book of Facts, the ships of the Minrothad Guilds will show up only a few days before the Thyatian Empire. While their priority is in blocking Aegos, they might send recruiters to Gaity to hire extra steel, or neutral parties to facilitate the parlay between the Aegeans, Minroths, and Thyatians... or they may even hire the PCs to help rig up explosives in the Great Elevator.

The Thyatian Invasion

After two weeks, the Thyatians will invade Gaity. It will be in overwhelming force, and Timalta will be arrested to be taken to Thyatia, unless the PCs manage to save her. They might choose to join the loyalists who later rescue her, if they decide to leave the Island.

If they stay they have some opportunities:

The temporary Thyatian governor will want to appoint several Barons to reclaim portions of the Island from among skilled people whose loyalty can be bought and whom the locals will respect.

Ships will arrive offering to bring Alphatian refugees to the Isle of Dawn, Norwold, or Karameikos, giving the PCs an opportunity to explore more of Mystara.

If the PCs do to well against Thyatian invaders, they might become outlaws and need to make a run to a neutral kingdom while looking for a way to keep Thyatis from becoming a global superpower.


  1. If you want to catch up or just get a good survey of Mystara, Mr Welch's YouTube channel is great.