Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

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Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Thorf » Tue May 15, 2018 2:29 am

I'd like to take the recent incident with Mystara being unfairly treated in a Wizards of the Coast podcast (discussion here) and turn it into a positive for us. One way we could do this is by writing an open letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards team, and get it signed by as many people in the Mystara community as possible.

The background to this idea is as follows... I think we're (almost) all on roughly the same page regarding the incident. Matt Sernett has apologised for his part in the offending interview. Although his conduct undoubtedly reflects badly on his position as "loremaster", we can forgive him — and indeed many people already have done just that, including myself (on Twitter).

But Bruce made a point about endemic disrespect for Mystara and indeed the community at Wizards, and this also stands. Above all this incident reflects badly on Wizards as a whole. And this is hardly the first time for them to make a misstep like this. Aside from the two cruel April Fools jokes making fun of the setting, there was the whole debacle with the Old Worlds forums — which I'm sure is on many of our minds this month, as we approach the tenth anniversary of The Piazza's opening — which itself was a direct result of the mess with Wizards' forums.

There is no sense in dwelling on this, though. Instead we should try to use it as a stepping stone to get them to actually do an episode of their podcast about Mystara, or ultimately open it up for us at the DMs Guild.

So what should an open letter say?

The key points would be:

- We are the Mystara community, and there are a lot of us.
- Most of us originate with B/X, BECMI and Rules Cyclopedia D&D rather than AD&D. Many of us started with the best selling D&D product ever, the Red Box Basic Set.
- As a result, we are more international than any other setting. It would surely be no exaggeration to say that outside the US, Mystara ruled the RPG world.
- We were always the underdog even during the setting's publishing run at TSR.
- "Basic" D&D was (and still is) often viewed as inferior to AD&D, even childish. By extension this applies to Mystara too. But in fact it was a fully developed system — the very label "Basic" ignores the fact that this was followed by "Expert", "Companion", "Master" and even "Immortal". The sheer popularity of the Rules Cyclopedia drives this point home.
- It's unfortunate that Wizards seems to be equally clueless about Mystara and the setting's roots in BECMI D&D, continuing TSR's legacy.
- But Mystara has a legion of enduring fans, many of whom are still dedicated to the setting 25 years after its run finished.
- We're willing to put our money where our mouth is — just look at the PDF sales of 25-40 year old books such as the Rules Cyclopedia.

Educating them about the setting
- Mystara had no world book, but the core of its products lies in the BECMI era.
- Put simply, every BECMI D&D book (1981-1993) is a Mystara book.
- The AD&D books (1994-1996) were mostly reprints of existing material.
- X1 The Isle of Dread (yep, that's part of Mystara) outlined the Known World area.
- The Rules Cyclopedia later repeated this, making it the beating heart of the setting (and the system) in more ways than one.
- The true meat of the setting is undoubtedly the Gazetteer series: fourteen books detailing the Known World area, providing history, geography, politics, economics, and above all adventure opportunities.
- Most of the old BECMI modules are explicitly set in Mystara, and those which aren't were adopted into it.
- Among the most popular adventures were X1 The Isle of Dread, B10 Night's Dark Terror, X4/X5 Master of the Desert Nomads/Temple of Death, and CM1 Test of the Warlords. There are many more.
- Mystara often takes old pulp ideas, which granted may seem tacky or weird at first, and turns them into brilliant gems. The Hollow World is the prime example of this: a truly bizarre idea that Aaron Allston turned into one of TSR's best books.

Insert a list of what makes Mystara great. John Tudek created a great thread about this on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mystara ... 366969186/

What do we want?
- The Mystara community wants respect from Wizards of the Coast and its designers and employees.
- Above all, we want to keep doing what we've been doing for the past 25-40 years: continuing to play in and develop Mystara.
- Most of us would love to see Mystara appear more in 5th Edition D&D. We'd love to see more references to it in the main books, an adventure hardback set in Mystara (likely Isle of Dread or Night's Dark Terror), or even better a world book — and we'd love for this to be done with consultation with Mystara's experts, including Bruce Heard.
- We'd love for Mystara to be allowed on DMs Guild, and many fans have already started and indeed finished products to be put up there as soon as it is opened up. You just need to pull the trigger.
Last edited by Thorf on Thu May 17, 2018 2:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Havard » Wed May 16, 2018 7:10 pm

I think this is a great idea!

At the very least it lets us express our feelings in a constructive manner.

One thing I would like to be included is something about the setting not being a kid oriented setting. I don't know how to best phrase that.

Another thing we might want to bring up (or not) is the popularity of the Video Games. Although pretty far removed from the main Mystara community, it was apparently hugely successful back in the days. Not sure how well the relaunch did, but at least it was relaunched.

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Thorf » Thu May 17, 2018 2:04 am

I rewrote the first post of the thread to better introduce the idea.

Great ideas, Håvard. I added a paragraph:

- "Basic" D&D was (and still is) often viewed as inferior to AD&D, even childish. By extension this applies to Mystara too. But in fact it was a fully developed system — the very label "Basic" ignores the fact that this was followed by "Expert", "Companion", "Master" and even "Immortal". The sheer popularity of the Rules Cyclopedia drives this point home.

I wonder where the games would fit in this structure. I already rewrote the "educating them" section a little. Any ideas?

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Gravesguardian » Thu May 17, 2018 2:55 am

Not sure about the other video games; but, they might want to do a quick search on YouTube for Warriors of the Eternal Sun. The number of videos for that alone might give them a heart attack.

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by TheGlen » Thu May 17, 2018 4:34 am

Focus on one of the aspects of Mystara that was a major focus of many of the modules, exploration and domain building. Several Mystara modules had you carve out a chunk of unexplored territory, and if you wanted your own kingdom you had to earn it. Vast chunks of Mystara was wilderness, most of the nations had large areas that were still untamed. Focus on what makes each setting unique and different, for Mystara that's trailblazing.

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Khedrac » Thu May 17, 2018 9:52 am

Something one could work in is that back in the Gazatteer time Columbia Games used to claim that Harn was the most detailed game world published, thanks to the Gazatteers this was probably false - Mystara was more detailed than any other TSR/WotC world and pobably more detailed than Harn (e.g. it was certainly more detailed than Glorantha at that time).
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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Sturm » Thu May 17, 2018 11:03 am

Certainly now has more fan works than any other rpg setting, maybe even more than Star Wars and Star Trek. The combination of canon and fan works has given Mystara an amount of details which I believe has no equal in fantastic settings.
Even more than Middle Earth, which IMO has less details for many regions and times despite the amount of work done by Tolkien and Merp.
The fact that Wizards has never realized that in 20+ years speak volumes of their utter disregard for fans.
As they showed nothing but contempt for Mystara frankly I do not see the point of even writing to them. I hold no illusion they could be able to understand or take in serious consideration any communication of this kind, if they ever bother to read it.

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Zendrolion » Thu May 17, 2018 3:04 pm

I find Thorf's idea a noble and proud reaction to the umpteenth proof of disesteem on Mystara by the WotC team. The worst thing ever was showing a total, unjustifiable lack of knowledge not only of the setting itself, but of D&D history, which is deeply interwoven with Mystara. That said, however, I tend to agree with Sturm here:
Sturm wrote:
Thu May 17, 2018 11:03 am
As they showed nothing but contempt for Mystara frankly I do not see the point of even writing to them. I hold no illusion they could be able to understand or take in serious consideration any communication of this kind, if they ever bother to read it.
I want also to add that, myself, I'd be quite uneasy about release of future Mystara modules by WotC. I'm not looking forward to the release of 5th edition modules regarding Mystara as a setting, and I'll explain you why.

A 5th edition Mystara would be produced not only for us old-days Mystara fans, but for new audiences as well. There are two risks here:

(a) since they already have their own well-selling high-fantasy world (Forgotten Realms), they wouldn't need another one, so they would likely have to tweak the setting's loose character (if any) into something we could - maybe - not identify as Mystara anymore;

(b) you will see tieflings, dragonborns, dwarf wizards, and other 3rd-5th edition strangeness (from our point of view, of course) popping into the setting - the same was done when Forgotten Realms was ported from AD&D into the 3rd edition - undoubtely polluting at least some of its elements.

Moreover, but these are just my fears, I feel that the release of a 5th edition Mystara setting will suddenly make that version the official Mystara: they would have to do choices about the setting, many choices, most of whom a number of us would disagree upon, I fear (just one thing over all: starting year, 1000 or 1010 or 1013 AC, or another year altogether?). Such changes would become retro-active, maybe even creating problems with fan works produced so far.

All in all, I love Mystara as it is. I don't play 5th edition, so I would not benefit form a 5th edition version of Mystara. I like the setting as loose as it is: we have an inconsistent set of canon modules upon whom some of us can practice their syncretic efforts, then lot of room for individual development as well. The best thing I can imagine for Mystara is a system-free campaign book written by the fans (say, a larger and more comprehensive Newbie Guide), not a company-produced campaign book - which might even turn out to be quite good (as the FR 3rd ed. book was), but since that involves high risks (remember what happened with AD&D Mystara?) and since I'm happy with what our community produces, I don't feel the need nor have the wish to see new and different Mystara modules produced by WotC or another house.

Bruce has effectively rebuked the way the podcast was handled and its content were treated - basically, they were not very much aware of what they were talking about. Bruce, Thorf, and others have again remarked on their blogs and of the social networks the setting's value, its large fan base, and the mistreatment it has received from WotC since the early 2000. I think that's enough. I'm happy with what Mystara has become during the last 20 years thanks to our dedicated work: I'm not looking forward to WotC releasing a module which would risk to frustrate what we have produced in all this time.

They don't know the setting, its sources, its fans - we do. So don't expect they will do anything good with it.

My two cents.
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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Sturm » Thu May 17, 2018 3:26 pm

Whooly agree. Mind it would be possible to do something decent IF they would bother to study Mystara and what the fans have made with it. It would be possible to make something old and new fans could appreciate, like an adventure path which could be newbie friendly but also interesting to fans.
Their best shot at this was when Bruce Heard proposed to them a new Voyages of the Princess Ark series before he decided to create Calidar. But they refused because they are extremely ignorant. They ignore Mystara, the work we have done and even what Bruce did for the history of Mystara and D&D. They are incredibly ignorant, because it's incredible someone working around D&D since years does not know the basics of one of the oldest and most important settings, and I do not see any of them bothering to educate himself/herself.
Also should one ever did it, I share Zendrolion's fear he would probably not do it properly :)

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by shesheyan » Thu May 17, 2018 3:45 pm

I agree with Zendrolion's post. Its best the «Eye of WoTC» doesn't turn its attention to Mystara. The community is doing a superb job of maintaining and expanding it.
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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by stebehil » Thu May 17, 2018 8:53 pm

The possibility of WotC not doing the setting justice in case of a new publication is all to real, I think. While I would love to see what ideas they would have for the setting, I fear that they would screw it up big time instead of developing it while respecting its history. So, while expressing our dislike of the statements made in the video, it might be better that WotC does not meddle with the setting.

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Seer of Yhog » Thu May 17, 2018 9:28 pm

IMO, they would probably create an in-game disaster scenario, totally shuffle the Known World, and re-boot it about 50 years into the future...with dimensional rifts and whatnot allowing tieflings and other new core races into the setting. There would be little any of us would recognise.

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Yaztromo » Thu May 17, 2018 10:03 pm

Nice initiative!
I'm OK if they keep ignoring Mystara (probably the RPG setting with most fan made material) and I'm OK if they want to expand Mystara with new publications, etc. I'm just not OK if they demean it (why?)
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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Gravesguardian » Thu May 17, 2018 10:45 pm

The only thing WotC can do for Mystara, as far as I'm concerned, is leave it alone & open it up for FANS to put out their materials; since we fans clearly have more respect for Mystara and it's various creators than WotC will ever have.

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by CommanderCrud » Thu May 17, 2018 11:09 pm

I play 5e in Mystara running straight from old modules converting on the fly with few house rules (mostly banning things that don't belong). We don't need WOTC to interfere with it. I'd fear what they'd do it as well.

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by night_druid » Thu May 17, 2018 11:10 pm

shesheyan wrote:
Thu May 17, 2018 3:45 pm
I agree with Zendrolion's post. Its best the «Eye of WoTC» doesn't turn its attention to Mystara. The community is doing a superb job of maintaining and expanding it.
*chuckles* Used to be we fought to try to get TSR to bring X-setting back into print. Now? "Oh gawd please no! You're just going to screw it up like you did FR!". WotC today is just not great at world-building.

As for the wish-list itself:
- The Mystara community wants respect from Wizards of the Coast and its designers and employees.
WotC response would likely be along the lines of "WotC's staff respects all of the fans of D&D, in whatever edition or setting you choose to play in." Don't expect anything change.
- Above all, we want to keep doing what we've been doing for the past 25-40 years: continuing to play in and develop Mystara.
In fairness, I doubt WotC is going to go all TSR-era lawsuit happy against fan-writers, so I doubt anything changes here.
- Most of us would love to see Mystara appear more in 5th Edition D&D. We'd love to see more references to it in the main books, an adventure hardback set in Mystara (likely Isle of Dread or Night's Dark Terror), or even better a world book — and we'd love for this to be done with consultation with Mystara's experts, including Bruce Heard.
I think the WotC response will be along the lines of "we love D&D and make references to older products where it makes sense. As far as a world-book goes, we are exploring all options." Same as we've heard before; but again, do you *really* want them to do a Mystara world book? :P
- We'd love for Mystara to be allowed on DMs Guild, and many fans have already started and indeed finished products to be put up there as soon as it is opened up. You just need to pull the trigger.
Likely they'll answer something along the lines of "opening it up when we feel the time is right."

Good gawd, part of me would make a fair company spokesman/stooge. ^_^ :facepalm:
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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Gravesguardian » Thu May 17, 2018 11:32 pm

night_druid wrote:
Thu May 17, 2018 11:10 pm
Good gawd, part of me would make a fair company spokesman/stooge. ^_^ :facepalm:
You have all of our utmost sympathy and condolences. We also promise to hold an equally sympathetic funeral service for you in the event that WotC ever hires you as spokesperson.

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by night_druid » Thu May 17, 2018 11:36 pm

Gravesguardian wrote:
Thu May 17, 2018 11:32 pm
You have all of our utmost sympathy and condolences. We also promise to hold an equally sympathetic funeral service for you in the event that WotC ever hires you as spokesperson.
I think I'm fairly safe...I'd demand WAY more than WotC would be willing to pay. ;)
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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Gravesguardian » Thu May 17, 2018 11:37 pm

night_druid wrote:
Thu May 17, 2018 11:36 pm
Gravesguardian wrote:
Thu May 17, 2018 11:32 pm
You have all of our utmost sympathy and condolences. We also promise to hold an equally sympathetic funeral service for you in the event that WotC ever hires you as spokesperson.
I think I'm fairly safe...I'd demand WAY more than WotC would be willing to pay. ;)
Well atleast you know the community would mourn you...after we all got rip-snorting drunk, of course.

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by RobJN » Fri May 18, 2018 7:11 am

night_druid wrote:
Thu May 17, 2018 11:10 pm

I think the WotC response will be along the lines of "we love D&D and make references to older products where it makes sense. As far as a world-book goes, we are exploring all options." Same as we've heard before; but again, do you *really* want them to do a Mystara world book? :P
Actually, this was the original plan for 2e's Mystara conversion, until they yanked the rug out from under Jeff Grubb and said "Whoops, no we're doing Karameikos oh, and throw in this Fancy New Gimmick Technology with these CDs...." :facepalm:
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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by shesheyan » Fri May 18, 2018 3:04 pm

At 850 total pages, at least 14 poster maps plus smaller maps and plans there is no way for WoTC to succeed at a new edition of Mystara.

At least now the Gazetteers are available on Drivethru at reasonable prices so new fans can have excess to them. Allowing Mystara projects in the DM Guild should be the main goal of this letter imho. It seems achievable in the short term. That would revivify the setting.
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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by ghendar » Fri May 18, 2018 4:19 pm

For what it's worth (and that's probably not very much) I agree wholeheartedly with everyone in this thread who thinks that Watsee should just ignore Mystara. They will only mess it up. Good lord, look at what they did to FR for 4th edition. Mystara belongs to the fans now. Leave it alone. The last thing I would want is for the Murlz to get his hands on it.
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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by Thorf » Fri May 18, 2018 4:46 pm

I don't really understand the negativity here.

I mean sure, I'd be the first to agree that Wizards probably won't do a good job at a world book. But the fact is they're not even going to try. Look at what they've done, and what they're doing, and it should become clear that even if they tackle Mystara it's most likely to be an adventure.

But more of a point, they have established that the pattern for opening up DMs Guild to a new setting is through releasing an official product. That's what happened with Ravenloft, and the lack of new settings since then suggests that's their overall plan.

In other words, without some sort of Mystara book, it seems highly unlikely at this point that we'll get DMs Guild.

I get that many people don't even see the value in having Mystara on DMs Guild, but I strongly disagree with that, personally. I only have to imagine a row of hardback Threshold books on my shelf - next to a printed Atlas of Mystara and indeed many other physical books created by fans - to remind myself of my end goal here.

In short: I agree that Wizards may well screw up their Mystara book, but I don't think it matters at all. The worst case scenario is that it's rubbish, but in that case what do we lose? It's easy to ignore. I'm not seeing the problem here. It's not as if we're suddenly going to be divided by some world-shattering cataclysm, after all - been there, done that already! ;)

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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by shesheyan » Fri May 18, 2018 5:42 pm

Thorf wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 4:46 pm
...But more of a point, they have established that the pattern for opening up DMs Guild to a new setting is through releasing an official product. That's what happened with Ravenloft, and the lack of new settings since then suggests that's their overall plan. In other words, without some sort of Mystara book, it seems highly unlikely at this point that we'll get DMs Guild....
I wasn't aware of that pattern. That IS a very good point. Maybe then we can help them decide what should be in the book and try to have at least some influence on the result. What are the 10 MUST haves, most iconic things about the setting, and such. Maybe that should be in your letter. ;)
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Re: Open Letter to Mike Mearls and the Wizards Team about Mystara

Post by RobJN » Fri May 18, 2018 7:46 pm

The big thing with 5e seems to be their "Three Pillars" approach: exploration, social interaction, and combat. What do we notice as the Classic D&D rules and modules progressed? Basic and Expert modules focused on exploration. The Known World was chock full of vast tracts of lightly explored or totally unexplored territory. The Companion Set's world map took the extent of that unexplored-ness and turned it up to 15. Later Expert, Companion and Master level modules focused a lot on domains, politics, diplomacy. Not every encounter could be decided by the pointy-end of a sword, and when swords were called for by that point, they were needed in the hundreds or thousands.

Some food for thought on the strengths of the setting, and where Wizards might best focus their story-telling efforts.
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