Monday, April 11, 2016

Review & Commentary On the Free OSR Resource - Threshold Magazine Issue #11 for Your Mystara and Old School Campaigns.

I've been wrestling with work and other issues today but had just enough time to check out the latest issue of Threshold magazine issue #11. It so happens that I've been wrestling with the subject of Mystara and Alphatia came up last night. For those of who don't know;
"Alphatia is a continent and empire in TSR's fictional fantasy game setting, Mystara for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. The continent of Alphatia is nearly 2,000,000 square miles (5,000,000 km2) in area and has approximately 7,500,000 inhabitants. The continent of Alphatia is the center of the Alphatian Empire, which is founded on the exploration and exploitation of magic.

Unlike most humans on Mystara, Alphatians are a human race of ancient "alien" origin, having arrived 2,000 years in the past from another world after they destroyed their original homeworld, also called Alphatia (now known as "old" Alphatia), after a war between two factions of wizards devoted to the elements of air and fire respectively. The Alphatian people are the descendants of the faction devoted to air and consist of two sub-races, the pale-skinned, dark-haired "pure" Alphatians and the more common copper-skinned "Cypri" Alphatians."  This issue of Threshold is two hundred and fifty pages of pure sourcebook goodness for these magic wielding conquerors and their rivals Alphatia who clash again in Issue 11 of Threshold Magazine!


This issue starts off with a solid story by Bruce Heard called Once Upon a Time in Ar—Part Six, its a neat little piece which goes into the happenings on the ground of their main characters. If your really a fan of the setting and material its something your going to want to check out. From Alphatia to Calidar by Francesco Defferrari (Sturm) traces down the origins and backgrounds of these two campaign settings by the man who created them whilst contrasting the echoes of this material on the Mystara gaming scene. Spelljamming, portals, and more are laid on the table to combined and trade off these two campaign settings there's some very solid ideas here.
This article includes optional incorporation of these worlds a subject I was both surprised and delighted by.  Next we get this little bit of juicy piece of cartographic slight of hand;"The Atlas of Mystara aims to present a comprehensive set of maps for Mystara, in two flavours: “replica maps”, which faithfully recreate the printed maps as-is; and “updated maps”, which are based on the Atlas’s consistent model of Mystara, and include additions from other sources which include all published products as well as select fan-created works."
Lots of solid stuff here to play around with and get your Mystara DM's hands dirty with.
Here's an example of what we get in this article:
"Blackpoint Citadel — “…the fort of
Blackpoint Citadel … sits opposite from
Karameikos’ Rugalov Keep.” (Dawn of the
Emperors DM’s Sourcebook page 14c)
Blackpoint has a label on the map, but the
symbol next to it is Rugalov Keep across the
border. While it’s possible that the two keeps
are in the same 8 mile hex, this makes the
map unnecessarily complicated. Therefore
the Atlas marks Blackpoint in the hex south
east of Rugalov Keep, where the road meets
it on the Thyatian side of the border. The
population of 1,250 dictates the use of a fort
Like I said there's plenty of adventure fodder to play around with in this issue for the Mystara and DM who wants to hook their adventures deep into the history and setting of this campaign world. Then we move on to a very interesting and fun interview. "The idea for this interview with Thorfinn Tait, the master cartographer famous in at least two worlds, Mystara and Calidar, and pillar of the Mystaran community, was introduced in this thread at The Piazza by forum member and Threshold editor Julius Cleaver. The questions were decided by members of the Mystaran community." This interview details the Atlas of Mystara project and some of the efforts of its members, Thorfinn Tait, and their results. There is some damn fine material here if you want to delve deeply into this heady brew of campaign setting.

Next we get into a bit of the Fifth edition background and happenings of the The Elemental Evil in Mystara and this material is worth the price of entry alone there is some very deep background on the doings and goings on of the cult, its works, background,factions,  a metric ton of adventure hooks and more. There is so much material here that it would take a very long time to set this campaign stuff up and use it, much of this background material is stuff you would expect to find in a box set or other professional products. Some of this material dovetails into previously discussed stuff from the Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia box set. This makes the material easy to use and it lines up with previous issues of Threshold magazine.
Next up is a deep background article about the The Thyatian Language by Giulio Caroletti and it really adds that extra punch to the material here for those players and DM that like that Tolkien level of detail in their settings. Its very well done and there are several adventure hooks sprinkled throughout the text. Then we get a fully functional mini campaign and adventure setting "Thyatian Mini-GazetteeR: THE JUDICATES OF CARYTION by Giulio Caroletti" This is a huge and expansive setting with lots of room for the DM to use and roam as they will with plenty of action hiding below and behind the facade of this setting.
Then we dive into a completely different take on the Forrester PC class and I was really looking for forward to this according to the author; "This article presents a revised forester class, one that allows progression up to 36th level, and adjusts the experience point requirements for the earlier levels. The expanded level progression grants foresters hit point increases from 11th to 36th level, additional general skill slots as they advance, and weapon mastery slots equal to the fighter class. The revision also replaces the forester’s attack rolls and saving throws from the elf class to those of a fighter of equivalent level. The end result is a logically and mechanically balanced forester class; one that is unique from the elf class, yet which falls in line with the other human character classes as presented within the BECMI/RC rules"
I personally like this take on the class and it lines up with BECMI/RC rules and it makes sense.

Then we get a complete adventure setting background to plunk these PC's into with Korro Zal's Thyatian Guild of Foresters. We get history, recruitment, training, details, past, present, and future material for this order and ideas for using these PC adventurers. There is a metric ton of material for PC's to dive into.
Francesco Defferrari (Sturm) gives a swath of information on A short list of the most famous Alphatian
and Thyatian explorers, compiled in AY 2020 by Thiserstian of Alphatia, magician and scholar of the Imperial University.'  There's lots of material here to add in and mix with your players. Francesco Defferrari (Sturm) also gives us the goods on the Lost Civilizations of Thyatis and Alphatia. Use this material carefully because some of this stuff can give away potential secrets, add ons and history for these empires. Alphatian Alphabet by Jacques (Jack) Riesling gives that incredible level of detail for your Mystara adventures when the specter of these empires is needed for an adventure especially when their magic lurks in the adventure foreground and beyond. Hausman Santos and Alexandre de Luna give us even more adventure and campaign fodder with A Gazetteer of Limn.
Warbirds Add-Ons has more options, equipment, and material for your Warbird skyships! There is some great stuff here including more deck plans and maps. 20 Years of History in the Sea of Dawn by Francesco Defferrari (Sturm) is a time line of A timeline of the Isle of Dawn, the
Alatian Islands, Ochalea and the Pearl Islands as detailed in Wrath of the Immortals boxed set, the Poor
Wizard’s Almanacs I, II and III. Again we get that superior level of detail that we've come to expect from Threshold. This is followed by An Atlas of the Isle of Dawn which dovetails nicely with the previous article by the same author.
Sure there's plenty of campaign, adventure background, and more but is there a dungeon here in this issue of Threshold? Yes there is and if you like D&D's Stylvan and Fey races your going to want this issue especially with the level of detail in Koskatep level 9: Krystallac, crystal heart! Its very well done indeed! Time’s Travels rounds out this issue and I can honestly say that this is a real winner in my estimate! Nicely done and with some solidly done articles! Pick this one up!

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