Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gazetteer Conversion Changes

The Gazetteer line of modules were published as a series detailing the lands of the "Known World" which became known as Mystara. The detailed settings started in 1987 with the Grand Duchy of Karamiekos and ended in 1991 with the Atruaghin Clans. That is quite an impressive stretch that runs parallel to the history of TSR between 1st and 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. The Gazetteers, as a whole, remain fairly consistent throughout the series and I think Bruce Heard deserves some credit for shepherding the whole affair.

After thinking about the online games that have sprung up and then posting the Nunchuck Gastropod Manifesto, it made me recall that the Gazetteers had a page in them about how to convert a Basic Dungeons and Dragons character to an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons character. So, I went back through my collection and started to search through them for what TSR recommended back in the day.

I believe one can start to see the marketing goals of TSR of the time by comparing the different versions of the conversion guidelines. The first thing that comes to mind is that the first six gazetteers do not seem to make any mention of conversion.

Then in 1988, GAZ 7 The Northern Reaches is the first to include a conversion guide. But the language is quite interesting. It is titled "Adapting Gazetteers to AD&D Campaigns". The language is more about how to utilize the gazetteer in the World of Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms. It puts forth the world tree Yggdrasil as a conduit to link the Moonshae Northmen of Forgotten Realms and also to the Snow Barbarians of the World of Greyhawk.

Moving on to 1989, GAZ 10 The Orcs of Thar includes nearly the same dialogue as before but the title is "Adapting Your Gazetteer to the AD&D Game". It suggest linking the Broken Lands to the Forgotten Realms area known as Thar. How confusing is that? The Orcs of Thar of the Broken Lands is linked to the land of Thar of Faerun.

Aslo in 1989, GAZ 11 The Republic of Darokin suggests taking the societies described in the gazetteer and implementing them in Cormyr of Forgotten Realms. For the World of Greyhawk fans, it suggests the Kingdom of Keoland.

And finally, in 1989, GAZ 12 The Golen Khan changes the title to "Adapting Gazetteers to the AD&D 2nd Edtion Game". Of course! This ties in nicely with the release of the updated rules by Zeb Cook and Steve Winter.

And once again, the gazetteer offers a conduit to other campaigns, but this time utilizing the shamans dream travel. Ethengar is linked to the Plain of Horses in the Forgotten Realms and the Tiger Nomads of Greyhawk.

It would have been interesting if the line had continued. I can easily see the conversion guide keeping up with the times and offering advice on how to link Alphatia to Planescape, Ylaruam to Al Qadim, the Sind Desert to DarkSun.

I will try and summarize the actual conversion guidelines in another post soon. Stay tuned.

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