Monday, August 27, 2018

European D&D/MtG handcuffed and denied entry to the USA

Anna Steinbauer, Magali Villenue and Titus Lunter were travelling to the USA  on the ESTA visa-waiver. The three artists known for their work on D&D and Magic The Gathering were denied entry and instead hand-cuffed and detained for 11 hours. Their ESTAs appear to be permanently cancelled.

Titus Lunter reports the following via Twitter:

Please help me understand how this happened. :(


Andahar Coat of Arms

Years ago, I was working on coats of arms for various noble houses of Blackmoor. I guess I never got around to sharing all of them. Here's one I found on my hard disc. The bird on the crest should ideally be a swooping hawk as depicted in DA1 p 18, but this was the closest thing I could find. 

Maybe someone has a better depiction out there?

PS: Thanks to my friend Yaztromo for bugging me enough to dig this one out!  :)


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

No, Bruce Heard did not get involved with The Known World/Mystara towards the end of its run.

Replica of a map appearing in Dragon #155. Replica by Thorfinn Tait.
Mystara first appeared in published form in 1981 and even existed before that as the home campaign of Tom Moldvay and Lawrence Schick in Ohio. Of course, it would take years before it got the name Mystara. While most fantasy worlds evolve over time, this is especially true for Mystara which saw significant changes over the decades when it was published by TSR. The incorporation of Blackmoor into Mystara's past is one such major evoltionary step of the setting.

There seems to be a common misconception that you can divide the evolution of Mystara into two stages:
1) The Known World
2) Mystara under Bruce Heard.

While Bruce Heard is probaly the single person who had the most influence over the development of Mystara (no disrespect to Aaron Allston, Frank Mentzer, Tom Moldvay, David Zeb Cook and others), it should be noted that Bruce did not join the development of Mystara late in the process. Bruce Heard became Product Manager of the Classic D&D line (and by extension the Classic D&D Setting, later known as Mystara) no later than 1987 with the release of Gaz 1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos. By that time he had already published several adventures for the setting, including M1 Into the Maelstrom (1985) and CM7 Quest for the Tree of Life (1986). He also wrote Gaz3 the Principalities of Glantri that was published in 1987.

Sadly, Bruce Heard was not able to work with Mystara anymore when TSR decided to dump Classic D&D and turn Mystara into an AD&D setting in a process which lead to Jeff Grubb leaving TSR.
Bruce did continue supporting Mystara in the ways he could and did return with articles in Dragon even after the setting was effectively discontinued in 1995  with articles such as the Rakasta article in Dragon Magazine 247 in 1998. He also returned with a final installment of the Voyage of the Princess Ark in Dragon #344 in 2006.

So while an important framework for the setting was laid down with the description in X1 the Isle of Dread (1981) and with the B/X and BECMI D&D rulesets between 1981-1986, it is difficult to divide the history of Mystara as before and after Bruce Heard. Bruce Heard's influence of the setting increased gradually, just as the development of the setting itself happened as a process of gradual evolution rather than as stages of revisions under different management.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Happy 10th Anniversary to The Piazza - D&D Worlds Discussion Forum!

I can't believe 10 years have passed since fans began abandoning the D&D message board forums at Wizards of the Coast. A series of attempts at upgrading the site had been highly unpopular with fans. WotC's decision to eventually shut down the forums a few years later came as no surprise. At the time I had tons of posts there and it was a vast source of resources for D&D fans. More importantly it was a community where friendships were being made and ideas exchanged. Many were worried that all this would be lost.

Fortunately Ashtagon came along and set up The Piazza to be a home for fans of all the D&D Worlds. I wrote more about the Piazza Phenomenon back in 2009. The Piazza is still alive and kicking today!

Happy 10th Anniversary! I hope to see more of you joining us in the future as well!

Oh, and if you want to join the party, check out this information here:

The Piazza's 10th Birthday Chat (May 26th)

The Piazza's 10th Birthday London Party (May 27th)


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mystara, The Known World, The Continent or the D&D Game World?

Mystara is one of the most underrated of the D&D Game Worlds. The sheer number of game material produced for this setting might surprise people. During the TSR era, it was one of the best supported settings.

Unfortunately, this is not something most people are aware of today. One of the reasons for this is that the vast majority of the Mystara products did not carry a Mystara logo.

Another dicussion that often comes up that I wanted to look at here is the origins of the name Mystara and the other names used over the years to describe this setting. Some fans of the setting don't like the name Mystara. This is perhaps understandable since it was a name that was added late during the publication era of the setting.

Mystara started out as a home campaign in Akron, Ohio. But in published form it first saw the light of day in 1981 in the module X1 The Isle of Dread. This means Mystara was TSR's third oldest setting, predated only by Blackmoor and Greyhawk. I wrote in more detail on the origins of this setting here.  When it first appeared in X1, this world was simply referred to as The Continent. Later the names The Known World and the D&D Game World were used for the most part of the settings history.

The name The Known World gradually became associated with a single part of the setting; the region featured on the map from X1 where it had first appeared. For most of the settings history it didn't really need a name. The D&D Game World was sufficient because unlike AD&D, every book published for D&D was assumed to take place in this world. However, as the game world expanded a need for a name appeared.

A few common misconceptions about the name Mystara should be cleared up first:

1) The BECMI D&D Setting had grown beyond the Known World/X1 area long before the Mystara name was used in print.

2) The name Mystara appeared in print in several BECMI products before the AD&D Mystara line was launched, most notably in the Champions of Mystara Boxed set.

So what exactly caused the folks at TSR to feel that the world needed a name? Bruce Heard, Product Manager of the BECMI line since the publication of Gaz 1, offered the following:

"....there was no way to equate the Known World with Blackmoor, the Hollow World, and the Voyage of the Princess Ark, which all concerned areas outside the Known World."
Over the years the world presented in X1 had grown. Blackmoor had been incorporated into the world's past with the DA modules. The Hollow World and the Voyage of the Princess Ark were massive expansions to the setting.

The name Mystara first appeared in print in 1991 with Dragon #172. AD&D Mystara did not appear untill 1994 so it seems unlikely that this was simply a name invented to prepare for taking the line into AD&D, even if Bruce Heard or others at TSR may have considered that as an option early on.

Love it or hate it, the name Mystara stuck. It is also a name that has been adapted by the Mystara fan community and having a common name for the setting we all are fans of is important in preserving that identiy.


WotC Spokesperson Apologizes to Mystara fans

The following was posted at The Piazza on May 13th:

If you have missed the drama today, it started when a Mystara fan discovered a WotC produced video from january this year where the hosts answer a question about what happened to Mystara. A link to the video was posted on the Mystara Reborn group on Facebook. The response given in the interview angered many Mystara and Spelljammer fans, as well as Mystara Godfather, Bruce Heard, who wrote an article about it on his blog pointing out the problems with the video with regards to Mystara.

 Anyway, Matt Sernett of WotC did appologize both to Bruce Heard and Mystara fans out there. We all make mistakes and it does show character to admit it and appologize. Did Mystara fans overreact to comments made in the video? I think it would have been easier to accept this type of comments if Mystara had not been mostly overlooked for more than 20 years. Many Mystara fans still remember when bringing back the Hollow World was presented as an April's Fool's Joke on WotC's website many years ago.

Most of us dream of Mystara being brought back to life. While that might never happen, it would be nice if the reason for it being ignored for another 20 years is that the people at WotC really haven't bothered to understand what Mystara was about beyond not liking the CDs and the art in the 2nd Ed Mystara Monstrous Manual. Let's hope that at least one person at WotC now sits down and reads some gazetteers! :)


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mystara Monster Nightwalker returns to 5E in Mordenkeinen's Tome of Foes

Art by Ben Wootten
These appear in the upcoming Mordenkeinen's Tome of Foes according to this Dragon +video. I am not sure that Mystara or BECMI will be referenced in the 5E book, but this was one of the Nightshade monsters that originally appeared in the BECMI Master Set, by Frank Mentzer. These are some of the most terrifying creatures that existed in that edition. There were three types of Nightshade. Nightwing and Nightcrawlers were the two others. The Nightwing appeared the Immortals Triad novels by Douglas Niles.

Sea Elves is another Monster with long ties to Mystara and Classic D&D that also is said to appear in Mordenkeinen's Tome of Foes as are Nagpa.

Thanks to zontoxira at the Piazza for pointing me to the video.