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School Me In ... Basic D&D

Bill_Coffin

Part of the solution
Since we're talking about OD&D goodness, allow me to point out a great article from the May 1896 issue of Dragon (I don't have the number before me but it's around #110-116) called "Customized classes" and written by Paul Montgomery Crabaugh. It provides handy rules for creating your own character class. Simple, workable and fun, just like the rest of OD&D.
 

Scoundrel

Go. Play. Trek.
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Mystara just felt right to me. Add in the slim (non Hobbit) Halflings from 3e, and it's perfect.

It also had one of the more plausible reasons for having lots of "Adventurers" running around- One of the deeply ingrained customs of the land was the "sheering" ceremony, whereupon a youth is sent out into the world to show his/her family that they are worthy the family respect/honor/business/what-have-you. If they survive a year or two, then they are let back into the family.

Social Darwinism at its finest. :D
 

Peter LaCara

Outsmarts bullets
Validated User
Wow. This thread is hella old.

I used my D&D Rules Cyclopedia so much in junior high that the binding eventually gave out and the cover came right off. And it's not like it was badly bound or anything. I just used it that much.
 
U

Unregistered HB

Guest
Mystara is a very late invention. Before it was called the Known World and represented only a small section of the world, which was expanded by a map in the Master's Set and then by the Bruce Heard Voyages articles in Dragon. When TAR wanted to reintroduce it for AD&D 2e, they came up with a naming-contest and that was the winner.

Basically, the setting was extremely well-developed (all those Gazetteers), but it never really made sense. They put the Roman empire next to the Slavs next to the Arabs next to the Italians (who were completely landlocked) next to the Vikings (who are right next door to the Arabs mind you). All the cultures had clear real world antecedents, but they screwed the Mongols over by neutering them. The climate patterns and such were ridiculous. (Not on the level of Forgotten Realms ridiculousness mind you, with a hot desert in the middle of the Artic), but still pretty ridiculous. On the other hand, if you could ignore how countries fit together and just stay in one, like Karameikos, it was pure gold. Definitely pick up the Karameikos gazetteer - pure brilliance and one of the best products available for a campaign setting. All the cultural, legal, and political details are there, and there is plenty of possibility for adventuring.

I'd suggest running the people you game with through one of the adventures in B1-9, maybe the Specularum one, and then sending them on B10 Night's Dark Terror - the best module ever made.

Also, get the Rules Cyclopedia and chunk all the Basic, Expert, etc. stuff out. Oh, by the way, the Immortals' Set is pure crap. Avoid it like the plague and remove it from your presence as soon as possible.

I'd also suggest not running anything much beyond 15th level. Combats tended to get ridiculous and the modules themselves show that the system doesn't support itself well at this level - what 50 ogres, well let's go at them then!

There are reviews up on all the B-series of modules, check them out. Avoid any X module written by Rasmussen - they are basically lists of people and places with no real plot or characters or even believability. Nothing worth reading there really.
 

Alfred Killingword

Writer, Gamer, Dude
Validated User
Bill_Coffin said:
Since we're talking about OD&D goodness, allow me to point out a great article from the May 1896 issue of Dragon ...
snip

And just a few months later, William Jennings Bryan was defeated by McKinley for the Presidency. Good times...

:D
 

Bill_Coffin

Part of the solution
Torosk said:
snip

And just a few months later, William Jennings Bryan was defeated by McKinley for the Presidency. Good times...

:D
Bah. Bryan was a damn munchkin who was trying to min/max the whole economy into some goofy silver standard. Had he gone with electrum, he might have won.

Oh, by the way, there was this great article in the May 1986 edition of the Dragon. Go read it.
 

The Grey Elf

is the Master!
Validated User
Bill_Coffin said:
Bah. Bryan was a damn munchkin who was trying to min/max the whole economy into some goofy silver standard. Had he gone with electrum, he might have won.

Oh, by the way, there was this great article in the May 1986 edition of the Dragon. Go read it.
Bill, I want to play in your D&D game. Can I move in with you for awhile?
 

Cossack

Grandma said kick yo' ass
Validated User
Unregistered HB said:
Basically, the setting was extremely well-developed (all those Gazetteers), but it never really made sense. They put the Roman empire next to the Slavs next to the Arabs next to the Italians (who were completely landlocked) next to the Vikings (who are right next door to the Arabs mind you).
I think that was part of the appeal, though, to be able to go from Imperial Rome to Tolkein Country to Viking Land to a Venice full of wizards.

Yeah, it didn't make a lot of sense, especially climactically, but if you were suspending enough disbelief to deal with the rest of D&D (I'm gonna catch hell for that one, I'm sure) it worked just fine.
 

E.T.Smith

A Most Sincere Poseur
Validated User
At last, a chance to use all that useless knowledge I was forcing into my head during High School! It disturbs me to realize that I probably know more about the Grand Duke of Karameikos than the Arch Duke of Austria.

"Unregistered HB" spoke it well, but I'll add my own thoughts. The Known World/Mystara setting was never set out all at once, but evolved along with the growth of the OD&D game line. Originally, published adventures were kept generic enough to fit into any standard D&D world. Remember that in the early days, it was genrally assumed that <i>all</i> DM's were using there own setting (if they even bothered with setting at all). However, each adventure usually included some degree of setting so that, as a group played through these adventures, they were by default exploring a certain world. Probably the first overt attempt to tie this all together in a single world appears in the expert rules-set, which said that all the "B" adventures were set in Karameikos and briefly described that frontier medieval nation.

In the accompanying module X1, all the nations around Karameikos that comprised the Known World were briefly described. It was strictly a sketchbook example of world-building; a bunch of medieval European derived nations thrown together with the obligatory demihuman homelands ("oh I guess I'll put the dwarves...uh, here...and call it Rockhome, or something"). It wasn't a living fantasy world so much as a way for the DM to introduce certain cliches into his campaign (Want Vikings? Go to Ostland. Arabian adventures? Here's Ylarum), the kind of thing you get when mixing togetther everything you think is "cool" without rhyme or reason. And there was no history to the setting, all the nations simply were <i>there</i>, without any origins are relations.

Conversely, certain high level adventures gave world backgrounds that didn't really have anything to do with the Expert Set's Known World (not suprising, since they had huge epic plots that couldn't fit within its confines). Again, this wasn' t considered a design goal at the time but in the later Companion and Masters rules-sets TSR again tried to tie it all together by printing a planetary map that included place names from those modules (Norwold, Alphatia) and including the Known World tucked away in one little corner of the planet (which wasn't named).

I think the idea that OD&D was inherently about the Known World didn't really become established till the Gazeteers started to be printed, possibly because they often contained rules that were specific to the setting. In some ways the Gazeteers improved the setting, by giving each of the Known World nations history and theme. Unfortunately, each Gazeteer was written by a different writer, so the setting conversely became fractured in another way. Also, as the series progressed, the Gazeteers had to tapdance ever more delicately around the histories of the other nations and at the same time incorporate them, which could make them real "What the Hell?" reads. Often the nations were completely reimagined; Thyatis, for instance, was originally described as being a version of the Byzantium Empire, but by the time of the Alphatia/Thyatis boxed gazeteer it was just another decadent Roman cliche (I suspect because TSR felt more gamers had ideas about what Rome was like than Byzantium).

I feel the high point of the Known World was the Hollow World boxed set, a great little setting that mined the histories that had been established in the Gazeteers (and the real world stuff that they cribbed from) to populate a vast playground of the gods (or Immortals, a distinction TSR went to pains to make).

Speaking of Immortals, they eventually became a key aspect of the setting. It was stated canon that the reason that the world was so screwy was because the Immortals were always fiddling with it; that is, a searing arid desert abuts a frigid land of fjords because Ixion likes it that way, dammit.

Anyway, after Hollow World, the setting went downhill. There was just too much of it to be practically useful for players, or even DM's, and with the game now so intricately tied to it it was impossible to get into the first without encountering the second. Published adventures would casually reference expensive or out of print supplements (when they were published at all; adventures became a very rare thing). The Rules Cyclopedia gave a lot of space to Mystara, yet didn't include a simple beginners' adventure, which should give you some idea how warped priorities had become. The boxed set <i>Wrath of the Immortals</i> was for me the final nail, presenting as it did a vast World War for the Mystara setting, which changed it significantly but didn't include any way for a group of characters to be meaningfully involved; In other words they got to stand around and watch as a metaplot unfolded. Mystara eventually trumped D&D; the game was discontinued but the setting was converted to AD&D.

In my opinion, a setting should exist to serve the game and the people who play it, and it was a shame when TSR started thinking the other way around. Now, to address the original poster (FINALLY!), I would suggest you ignore Mystara, except for bits here and there. Gazeteer 1, Karameikos, is a great, basic setting that includes enough story ideas to fill a year or more of play, which I imagine is longer than your young plyers will keep at it. Also it doesn't include any major changes or additions to the rules, which nearly all the other Gazeteers do. Look for adventures that preceded the codification of the Known World (anything in the B,X, CM series really) and the AC supplements that were written as generic, again before the Known World reared its voracious maw.

P.S. I find it really funny that the guy who wrote Zenobia is looking to get into D&D.


Later:
E.T.Smith
 
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