Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

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Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

Post by Thorf » Mon May 20, 2019 1:56 am

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the Master Set's depiction of Thyatis, where the label for the empire has three arrows, pointing to mainland Thyatis/the Known World area, northwest of Glantri, and Ochalea.

This topic has cropped up numerous times in the past. Given subsequent developments — specifically the Gazetteer series but also almost everything that followed it — most of us simply dismissed these arrows as vague and inaccurate. Only a few people took them at face value, and most of them were fans of the pre-Gazetteer era.

Today, looking through M5, I just came across the following paragraph:
M5, page 44 wrote:Thyatis Background
The empire of Thyatis is over a thousand years old, yet much of its growth has come within the last century as it spread outward rapidly from the capital city of Thyatis. It now encompasses several islands off the southern coast of the continent and extends northward, having absorbed much of the territory that the PCs may have explored early in their careers (including Karameikos, Darokin, and Glantri).

Many historians attribute Thyatis's recent rapid growth to its leaders' fabled capacity for greed and trickery.
M5 was concurrent with the beginning of the Gazetteer series (1987), and even makes a reference to GAZ2 in its text.

The interesting thing here is that it's clearly taking the Master Set world map's extents of the Thyatian Empire literally. Isn't this the only product to do so? That it's concurrent with the early Gazetteers is rather surprising, because both GAZ1 and GAZ2 explicitly contradict the idea of Thyatian hegemony extending all the way to Glantri.

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Re: Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

Post by Morfie » Mon May 20, 2019 10:14 am

The author probably just referred to the Master Set map only. I think it was generally a very rushed module as there are a number of errors in it that the editor didn't pick up on.
You would be well aware of the offset hexes in 1 map, and the incorrect scale in another. The starting levels clash. Even the Gaz 2 reference on Page 45 has 2 typos just in that sentence.
Given the stock number, even GAZ 3 was before it also. So was B1-9 In Search of Adventure.

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Re: Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

Post by Thorf » Mon May 20, 2019 10:58 am

Well, yes — that it disagrees with everything concurrent is well-known to us.

What’s interesting is that this is, I think, the only textual reference to this “feature” of the Master Set map.

I’m not sure, though, that this sort of error necessarily means that the module was rushed. To discover this requires the editor to be extremely well-versed in the setting, which was likely not the case.

In this case, the writer was Jennell Jacquays, with Gary Thomas as the editor. I’m not sure how much Jennell knew about Mystara at the time, but as I said she actually came up with a lot of new info in M5, which marks the first time for the Isle of Dawn to get any development in text. It’s also the first significant appearance of Thyatis, which had been referred to a lot in previous products, but always on the periphery.

In other words, Jennell is the primary source for quite a lot of seminal details for Thyatis, the Isle of Dawn, and Alphatia. It’s quite clear that this was picked up and built on by Aaron Allston two years later in Dawn of the Emperors and the later Poor Wizard’s Almanac.

Besides, there’s another factor here: it’s easy for us to complain now about errors, but back in 1987, what would you need to refer to to check? There really wasn’t a lot available at that point about any of these topics. And there’s no way for us to tell when exactly it was written — although the release date is November 1987, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was written after the Gazetteers were released (starting in April 1987). And the teams behind these books were mostly rather different, too.

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Re: Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

Post by Robin » Mon May 20, 2019 11:25 am

The Problem with such symbols like arrows is what the symbol means.
1 somewhere in that direction in Thyatian Land
2 somewhere in that direction Thyatians plan to extend their realm
3 somewhere in that direction Thyatians do commerce and have strong political ties
4 somehere on that direction Thyatis send scouts, adventurers explorers
5 Thyatians exagerate their extend on purpose/or by accident to brag their empire size (espeecially to Alphatians...who in turn send Prince Haldemar to pop this balloon in his voyages)
6 The way Thyatis desires to extend
7..
Etc...many such possibilities could be made
Last edited by Robin on Mon May 20, 2019 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

Post by RobJN » Mon May 20, 2019 11:26 am

I don't remember if it got any discussion or not, but maybe there are tidbits to be found on the background of M5 in the Save or Die podcasters' interview with Jaquays from April 2014?
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Re: Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

Post by agathokles » Mon May 20, 2019 11:50 am

Thorf wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 1:56 am
M5, page 44 wrote:Thyatis Background
The empire of Thyatis is over a thousand years old, yet much of its growth has come within the last century as it spread outward rapidly from the capital city of Thyatis. It now encompasses several islands off the southern coast of the continent and extends northward, having absorbed much of the territory that the PCs may have explored early in their careers (including Karameikos, Darokin, and Glantri).

Many historians attribute Thyatis's recent rapid growth to its leaders' fabled capacity for greed and trickery.
M5 was concurrent with the beginning of the Gazetteer series (1987), and even makes a reference to GAZ2 in its text.

The interesting thing here is that it's clearly taking the Master Set world map's extents of the Thyatian Empire literally. Isn't this the only product to do so? That it's concurrent with the early Gazetteers is rather surprising, because both GAZ1 and GAZ2 explicitly contradict the idea of Thyatian hegemony extending all the way to Glantri.
Interesting. IIRC, other adventure modules take a different approach. In particular, X11 assumes that Wendar is an ally or satellite of Thyatis.

One aspect is that M5 is likely written as taking place after the B, X and CM modules, so it assumes a version of the near-future (w.r.t. 1000 AC) that obviously did not materialize as such in the product line (i.e., WotI, PWAs, etc.)

GP

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Re: Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

Post by Zendrolion » Tue May 21, 2019 5:18 pm

Like agathokles said, the M series is ideally taking place at least some years after the campaign starting date and also on a different timeline than the one who made its way through the GAZ series. This could help explain the mention of Thyatian expansion/conquest of some KW territories found in M5.

Besides, I don't think we should take too much seriously things like the Master Set map or the short background paragraphs of CM and M adventures; their goal, in fact, was to project the PCs in a much wider world of warring kingdoms and empires in which they could earn glory and build their own realms. Imagine something like this: the PCs play CM1 and the following modules (CM/M); now their concerns are all directed toward their dominions and Norwold; they could hear rumors or reports about the southern realms (Karameikos, Darokin - their homelands!) falling one after the other to Thyatis' armies. This would only make them more wary of Thyatis' imperialism, worried about Norwold's future, and would make a great starting point for the M2 module or the M5 peace conference in Helskir. This is the aim of old school modules I think, setting a general background from which to start a new adventure, not explaining in detail - for example - how the various countries of the KW fell to Thyatis. Obviously, a pattern like this works if your PCs are focused on Norwold, otherwise it should be the GAZ-using DM's duty to adopt a different point of view on Thyatis and its military power.

Regarding Master Set's map, handle it with care, as IMO the problem is the dotted lines, not the arrows: the map doesn't even mention Hule or Sind, but I suppose no one thinks the former has been conquered by the Empire of Dorfin IV (whatever might it be... ) or the latter by the "Serpent Peninsula"... The area labeled "Empire of Thyatis" on the map shows three arrows: two are directed toward lands belonging to Thyatis as per DotE - the mainland and Ochalea - while the other points to the Glantri-Wendar area, which by X11 (as agathokles said) is considered a Thyatian ally or subject realm. That said, the map is very simple, lacking a huge amount of detail, and makes an useful tool only for undeveloped areas outside the KW-DotE region.

Anyway, to answer Thorf's question I'd say yes, M5 has the only clear reference to the fact that in the near future Thyatis has absorbed Karameikos, Glantri, and Darokin.

I'd like to add a couple of somewhat off-topic thoughts about the empire.

First, in CM-M modules, the Empire of Thyatis was first said to be only a century old, then a thousand years old but whose imperial expansion had taken place mostly in the last century.

In M5, the background of the pregenerated PC Shebb Woolsey (who is 160 years old) says: He remembers visiting Thyatis 130 years ago when it was nothing more than a large city-state ruled by shiftless no-accounts. This could mean that the empire underwent some sort of fragmentation before the reign of Gabrionius IV - think of the Byzantine Empire in the 8th century or the Latin Empire in the 13th century. About the time when Gabrionius IV took the throne, the empire was reunited and the new emperor - as DotE and Red Steel tell - launched various campaigns of conquest (Traladara, Oceansend, Isle of Dawn, and Gulf of Hule). This, coupled with the conquest of the Hinterlands in the last decade of the 10th century, would justify the statement according to which Thyatis largely grew in the last century.

Second, thinking about the span of Thyatis' power in the KW, to an outsider the empire would surely seem to be the dominant power of that part of Brun. TM2 (Imperial Geopolitical Intelligence, Table 1) has Karameikos, Ostland, Wendar, and Rockhome as "Thyatis Allies". Karameikos is technically a grand duchy of the empire - albeit only formally; Ostland is a close ally of Thyatis; the Heldannic Knights are a military order from Hattias (much like the Teutonic Knights had ties with the German Holy Roman Empire in the real world, the same could be said by a foreigner about the HK); the Glantrian republic has been established by a Thyatian, people there speak Thyatian, and noblemen of Thyatian/Hattian origin are quite influent there; lastly, whatever their tie may be, Wendar has some sort of friendship with Thyatis (maybe it's a thing of the past, like the PWAs allow to think, or a standing alliance as can be gathered by TM2 and X11); not sure about how to assess the alliance of Rockhome to the empire (something which is largely ignored in GAZ6), but a number of dwarves are found in Thyatis and, if confirmed, such an alliance would represent a central asset for the empire (threatening the sultan of Ylaruam from the north, and putting Thyatis is touch with the Ethengarians who are Rockhome's friends). I'd also add that the short description of Minrothad in X1 has the guilds as closely allied with Thyatis (again, this is ignored in GAZ9, but could still represent a pre-Oran Meditor situation).

All in all, apart from Borea and the northern stretch of the area labeled "Thyatis" in the Master Set map, what is shown on it could not be all that wrong, from a geopolitical point of view. After all, if Thyatis is modeled on the Byzantine Empire, diplomacy should be its most efficient weapon - making and breaking alliances, weave plots, play enemies one against the other...
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Re: Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

Post by Thorf » Wed May 22, 2019 4:18 am

RobJN wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 11:26 am
I don't remember if it got any discussion or not, but maybe there are tidbits to be found on the background of M5 in the Save or Die podcasters' interview with Jaquays from April 2014?
I listened to this the other night. Perhaps I missed it, but I don't think there was any mention of M5 at all in the whole podcast, even if the podcast's write-up name-calls it. A bit disappointing, but then these guys are not Mystara fans, are they? So not too surprising.

As an aside, I'm not used to listening to podcasts (and I've never even listened to radio), but I find the whole thing to be painful at best. :? And the way that they incorporate their guest seems really quite rude, as they first ignore her completely for an extended period and then don't seem to be all that interested in what she has to say. It just doesn't seem to me to be how a guest should be treated.

Sorry, I'm not the best person to comment on podcasts! :o

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Re: Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

Post by RobJN » Wed May 22, 2019 6:47 am

Thorf wrote:
Wed May 22, 2019 4:18 am
RobJN wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 11:26 am
I don't remember if it got any discussion or not, but maybe there are tidbits to be found on the background of M5 in the Save or Die podcasters' interview with Jaquays from April 2014?
I listened to this the other night. Perhaps I missed it, but I don't think there was any mention of M5 at all in the whole podcast, even if the podcast's write-up name-calls it. A bit disappointing, but then these guys are not Mystara fans, are they? So not too surprising.

As an aside, I'm not used to listening to podcasts (and I've never even listened to radio), but I find the whole thing to be painful at best. :? And the way that they incorporate their guest seems really quite rude, as they first ignore her completely for an extended period and then don't seem to be all that interested in what she has to say. It just doesn't seem to me to be how a guest should be treated.

Sorry, I'm not the best person to comment on podcasts! :o
The Save or Die crews over the years have definitely been rules over game world. And they woefully miss the point of the Gazetteers on many occasions. Which is why we need to do a Mystara-centric podcast one of these days. Maybe as a companion to Threshold Magazine..... :ugeek:
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Re: Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

Post by LoZompatore » Wed May 22, 2019 1:13 pm

Thorf wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 1:56 am
The interesting thing here is that it's clearly taking the Master Set world map's extents of the Thyatian Empire literally. Isn't this the only product to do so? That it's concurrent with the early Gazetteers is rather surprising, because both GAZ1 and GAZ2 explicitly contradict the idea of Thyatian hegemony extending all the way to Glantri.
Actually there is also this lonely quote from X11 page 58, third column:

Hundreds of years ago this part of Thyatis was a wild and barbarous region and I deem much of it remains so. In any event, at that time a warrior chieftain came from the north in search of new lands to settle. Nebunar was his name and his fierce war riors met with victory after victory in their bid to win the rich lands we now call Essuria.

X11 was issued in 1986, possibly the intent of X11 author was to stick with the original political divisions of Mentzer's map, albeit Wendar and Essuria are independent countries by the time of the adventure.

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Re: Thyatian Empire — Master Set extents

Post by Thorf » Thu May 23, 2019 4:06 am

I guess I should clarify that I'm not advocating for this little detail to change our established views of Mystara or the Thyatian Empire. I only seek to draw attention to the reference as a point of historical interest. :geek:
agathokles wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 11:50 am
Interesting. IIRC, other adventure modules take a different approach. In particular, X11 assumes that Wendar is an ally or satellite of Thyatis.

One aspect is that M5 is likely written as taking place after the B, X and CM modules, so it assumes a version of the near-future (w.r.t. 1000 AC) that obviously did not materialize as such in the product line (i.e., WotI, PWAs, etc.)
This is always a possibility with these old modules, I agree, though the idea of moving them backwards or forwards in time always seems to antagonise the B/X crowd, with cries of "Ret-con!" ;) :twisted:
Zendrolion wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 5:18 pm
Like agathokles said, the M series is ideally taking place at least some years after the campaign starting date and also on a different timeline than the one who made its way through the GAZ series. This could help explain the mention of Thyatian expansion/conquest of some KW territories found in M5.

Besides, I don't think we should take too much seriously things like the Master Set map or the short background paragraphs of CM and M adventures; their goal, in fact, was to project the PCs in a much wider world of warring kingdoms and empires in which they could earn glory and build their own realms. Imagine something like this: the PCs play CM1 and the following modules (CM/M); now their concerns are all directed toward their dominions and Norwold; they could hear rumors or reports about the southern realms (Karameikos, Darokin - their homelands!) falling one after the other to Thyatis' armies. This would only make them more wary of Thyatis' imperialism, worried about Norwold's future, and would make a great starting point for the M2 module or the M5 peace conference in Helskir. This is the aim of old school modules I think, setting a general background from which to start a new adventure, not explaining in detail - for example - how the various countries of the KW fell to Thyatis. Obviously, a pattern like this works if your PCs are focused on Norwold, otherwise it should be the GAZ-using DM's duty to adopt a different point of view on Thyatis and its military power.
This is a very nice explanation. Thank you Simone, and also GP!

As you stated about diplomacy, it needn't necessarily be Thyatis's armies that the countries fell to; they could simply have been diplomatically "absorbed" into the Empire, whether as liege realms or just really close allies.
Regarding Master Set's map, handle it with care, as IMO the problem is the dotted lines, not the arrows: the map doesn't even mention Hule or Sind, but I suppose no one thinks the former has been conquered by the Empire of Dorfin IV (whatever might it be... ) or the latter by the "Serpent Peninsula"... The area labeled "Empire of Thyatis" on the map shows three arrows: two are directed toward lands belonging to Thyatis as per DotE - the mainland and Ochalea - while the other points to the Glantri-Wendar area, which by X11 (as agathokles said) is considered a Thyatian ally or subject realm. That said, the map is very simple, lacking a huge amount of detail, and makes an useful tool only for undeveloped areas outside the KW-DotE region.
Totally agree here. This discussion began for me on Facebook at the Mystara Cartographic Society, where I had a discussion with Travis (see this post if you want to read it — if you haven't already ;) ).

Personally my interpretation of the map aligns with Frank Mentzer's "sphere of influence" idea, that the labels on the map describe either geographic regions or just the dominant power in that region. And I agree, the "borders" shown on the map are not very complete. Often the regions encompassed by them are vast, stretching across continents, and it's not at all clear which are geographic regions and which are political spheres of influence.

For Thyatis, the problematic arrow can be interpreted as X11's Wendar being a Thyatis ally, which is presumably what X11's author did. Although Travis interprets the map as meaning that Thyatis owns the whole region delineated east of Borea, I can't say I agree with that interpretation, as it takes the map absolutely literally, without any thought to previous products, let alone future products that disagree with the interpretation.

I'm all in favour of people cherry-picking their favourite features to make their own ideal Mystara, but I'm not a great fan of the idea of there being a clear split in the series, effectively Mentzer vs Heard Mystara. I feel that this smoothes over the organic development process in the earlier products, which already disagreed with each other in all sorts of ways. It suggests that there was a master plan for Mentzer Mystara, which was clearly not at all the case. Even in the Gazetteer era, with Bruce overseeing the setting, the individual products were all done by different people, and often conflict with each other (and what came before). This is all likely due to lack of access to previous and concurrent books, which is why I so dislike all the shrieks of "ret-con!" It seems silly to me to make such criticisms. Just because we have access to the whole body of work on Mystara now, it does not follow that the original authors did — and in fact we know that most didn't.
Anyway, to answer Thorf's question I'd say yes, M5 has the only clear reference to the fact that in the near future Thyatis has absorbed Karameikos, Glantri, and Darokin.
Michele also pointed out X11 from 1986, which definitely seems to be influenced by the map. But M5 is the only one that really takes it at face value; while X11 tried to rationalise the strangeness of the idea, M5 just states it outright, unapologetically and without much explanation.
All in all, apart from Borea and the northern stretch of the area labeled "Thyatis" in the Master Set map, what is shown on it could not be all that wrong, from a geopolitical point of view. After all, if Thyatis is modeled on the Byzantine Empire, diplomacy should be its most efficient weapon - making and breaking alliances, weave plots, play enemies one against the other...
I fully agree with your assessment. And it's backed up by the successive products by Aaron Allston as well as Bruce Heard, and in fact by Frank Mentzer's comments on the subject.

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