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The Known World Grimoire

by Bruce Heard

Just over three years have passed since I approached the staff of DRAGON Magazine with some nebulous ideas for a series of D&D game articles. There was (and still is) a need for more regular D&D game coverage.

This column slowly grew into what most of you are familiar with - the logbook entries of Haldemar's adventures, followed with a Dungeon Master's background section. It grew - then, it grew some more!

Writing these monthly adventures became rather time-consuming for me. Because of this and because the development of the upcoming Princess Ark boxed set demanded an end to the adventure, the time has come for me to catch my breath. The adventures of Haldemar and company have come to an end.

For the time being, I'll continue to do my best to answer your letters as usual, and I may include occasional articles on various D&D game topics (perhaps offering more development of Mystara). Your letters could spark some new development - as you may have noted in last November's issue (#187) with the suggestions on dominion economics.

With a new year beginning, it is time to change what many of you have become accustomed to. More than ever, I wish to thank you all for your letters, suggestions, and criticisms. I'd also like to thank the DRAGON magazine staff for its patience and support. Let's get to your mail


I have to comment on one letter in the May 1992 issue of DRAGON Magazine (#181); the objections to the use of Irish place names in the Thyatian Province of Redstone, on the isle of Dawn. The writer is entitled to his or her opinion, but, as one who claims descent from Brian Boru, I like the idea. Also, I'm quite a student of the former Soviet Union, thanks to Uncle Sam's military, and got a kick out of seeing names from old Soviet Central Asia turn up in game products.

The AD&D game's Oriental Adventures rules are a favourite of mine, too. The adapted Japanese and Chinese settings are delightful. One of my sons is a student of French, and I enjoy dropping him into French-speaking New Averoigne in Glantri, or the Savage Coast's Kingdom of Renardy. If nothing else, it gives him a chance to laugh at my accent.

Maybe some gamer tracking down places like Ylaruam's Urst-Urt Valley might learn about the people and culture of the real-world's Urst-Urt desert in the Kazakh and Uzbek Republics, or one looking into the origins of Karameikos might learn something of ancient Greek pottery. Those Irish-sounding names on the Isle of Dawn could lead some curious gamer to investigate their background and learn of the fascinating history and lore of the Celtic peoples-Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Breton. and all. I vote for using them and the names from any other culture you can imagine basing a game or a campaign on.

Communication and understanding have to be keys to peace on any level. Whatever catches one person's imagination and leads to further investigation may lead this poor, battered world one step closer to the understanding and acceptance that we all so desperately need.

Thanks for your thoughts. Note that the original letter complained more about misusing foreign names rather than not using them at all. I can deal with most western European languages (more or less), but I guess I would get an "F" in Gaelic. Anytime a game setting is inspired at least in part from a real-world setting, either current or historical, it is almost guaranteed that some totally goofy names will come up (we never intend to offend anyone, though). The point is to make our proud "creations" sound like the inspirational source.

Some DMs' favourite method of creating a new setting is often to grab that ultra-detailed, 30-lb. Atlas of a distant and mysterious nation somewhere in our world, and pick neat-sounding names, complete with accents and other outlandish punctuation. With luck, they'll be absolutely unpronounceable. If the map is detailed enough, your DM might think, "They'll never find that one!" Your DM might shamelessly tweak what look like name roots, preserving the same syllable patterns. That's how we ended up with a village in Mystara called "goat dropping"! (I won't tell which one.) At worst, this could still improve your DM's grasp of world geography.

It's not the first time an overseas leader gave us a tap on the shoulder with an "ahem" comment about our latest faux-pas in an article here or a module there. Fortunately, it is often accompanied with a broad smile, if not a laugh! It's all in the spirit of the game.

Wow! The Wrath of the Immortals set is awesome! I never intended to run an Immortals-as-PCs campaign, but it does appear that the rules have been simplified from the old D&D Immortals Set-good move. The descriptions of the game's major Immortals was also a welcome sight; perhaps you could publish a more detailed list of the lesser Immortals (Ahmanni Turtlerider through Yav) in a future D&D accessory. What I liked about Wrath of the Immortals, however, was the adventure included in the set. The Great War of the Immortals and the resulting shake-up to the lands of the Known World are a boot in the pants for sagging campaigns (like my own).

Thanks for the compliments. Some of the minor Immortals may get development in forthcoming accessories. If our plans hold together and space allows, we may give you more on la v in the upcoming Princess Ark boxed set. By the way, the adventure in Wrath of the Immortals is written for mortal heroes, not Immortal novices.

Are the good and bad magic points of Alfheim (GAZ5, pages 19-23) affected by the elven land's transformation into the Shadow Elf realm of Aengmor (in Wrath of the Immortals)?

The good magic points went dormant. They will come back to life when the forest returns to its natural shape. Treat these areas as deserted, twisted forest. Immortals "mothballed" the Good Kingdom of the faeries (see PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk). The whole kingdom has "disappeared" from Mystara, and remains in suspended animation in a pocket plane. Depending on what happens to the trees in Aengmor the faeries will be returned to the Known World or relocated to the Hollow World. The bad magic points, unfortunately, remain.

Which elven clans migrated north to Wendar and which ones travelled south to Karameikos, after the transformation of Alfheim?

Migrated north: Feadil, Long Runners, Mealidil, and Grunalf. They went through Canolbarth, tiptoed between Yellow Orkia and Gruuk, skirted the Ethengarian border along eastern Broken Lands and Glantri, fled into Glantrian territory near Estoniarsk (Boidatia) after savage Ethengarian attacks (in the fall of AC 1008), continued toward the Barony of Pavlova, moved northwest through forested hills of the Wendarian Ranges, and finally went due north from there into Wendar. Feadil settled south of Sylvair; Meahdil north of Sylvair; Grunalf west of Woodgate; Long Runners north of Woodgate. Each clan was given a 2,000 sq. mile wooded area (pine forest) in exchange for swearing fealty to the King of Wendar. They had a long, difficult trek, but it was a rewarding one.

Migrated south: Chossum, Erendyl, and Red Arrow. They gathered south of Selenica, then headed south down the Duke's Road (now called the King's Road) to Penhaligon and Kelvin. As of AC 1010, those unable to fight have been allowed to set camp in the woods east of the Unnamed Moor. Chossum and Erendyl warriors went south into Callarii territory to help them exterminate the goblins there. Callarii Elves have greeted them with mixed feelings. Red Arrow warriors went east to fight other humanoids in the heavy forest north of the Vyalia Elves. So far, these three clans have the status of undesirable refugees at best. Frictions between them and the Karameikos elves are beginning to be felt. Erendyl has begun petitioning the King for a separate dominion in Radlebb Woods to help defuse an explosive situation.

I noticed that the villains of Karameikos' Black Eagle Barony were unusually inactive during the events of Wrath of the Immortals. Duke Stefan declares himself King, gets an Alphatian wizard (Master Terari) and an advanced magic school, and allows Alfheim elves to settle in Karameikos. Baron von Hendriks does nothing to balance this tremendous influx of good?

Before AC 1010, Von Hendriks made a total pest of himself with his western halfling neighbours. He also is partly responsible for setting up Callarii, Chossum, and Erendyl elves against each other by spreading lies, committing crimes, then framing one elf or another etc. He hopes for a Callarii revolt.

The Baron also tries to establish a diplomatic link with Thincol (as well as with Von Klagendorf), hoping for some sweet deal if the empire steps in. The Almanac reveals a surprising turn of event for the Black Eagle Barony by the end of AC 1010.

The Poor Wizard's Almanac

At last, it's here! By the time this sees print, many of you will have gotten your own copies; for those of you who haven't picked up this supplement yet, let me fill you in. This is a 240-page "pocket" book ($9.95 retail in the U.S.) packed with a geographic, historical, and political atlas of the Known World, including post- Wrath of the Immortals Thyatis and Alphatia, a listing of the Known World is and Hollow World's armies, a who's-who in Mystara, calendars, and a year's worth of game events for AC 1010. If you're not familiar with the world of Mystara, you'll need to have access to the campaign maps in the D&D Rules Cyclopaedia.

After a quick glance, I found no glaring mistakes! All the precious information, the maps, and the illustrations were where they were supposed to be. The index in particular (a nightmarish feat to put together in this kind of book) seemed to work just fine, as I feverishly flipped through the pages to randomly cross-reference various data.

What quickly caught my eye was the colour map sheet bound at the back of the book. I realised that it wasn't possible to open it without pulling the whole sheet out of the book. Fortunately, the perforation in my copy was good enough that the map came out easily, without irksome rips and tears. Then followed the foreboding thought of losing the sheet after pulling it out. For those of you with the same fear, I have a solution. Open the map sheet, and glue the upper left corner of the map to the inside the book's back cover. Make sure the map corner is properly cantered and aligned with the cover's edges. Then, refold the map inward, carefully restoring the map's vertical and horizontal fold lines. You'll never lose the map sheet this way, and you also can keep it unfolded while consulting the rest of book, easily displaying seven eighths of the map's surface without obstruction.

The book splits into two major chunks, as originally planned. The first section deals with past and present information, the second provides the "future" AC 1010 events (almost 70 pages worth of information). I found the second part the most interesting since it brings to light new developments in the game world, but unfortunately it also is the shorter of the two sections. I caught myself flipping back to the who's who and the armies chapters of the first section out of sheer curiosity or to refresh my memory on some of the more uncommon details of Mystara.

Although I reviewed the material in earlier drafts, the second section in its final shape still offered a fun read. Game events are listed in the practical format that had been used in the Wrath of the Immortals boxed set.

They are guaranteed to offer an unlimited source of world-wide adventure ideas. In contrast, the first section does not read as smoothly (it was never intended to), but it does its job well. It offers a handy, well-organized, and amazingly complete dictionary, especially when one considers the amount of space available in the book versus the mind-boggling quantity of data that had to be researched or created to fit the Almanac's format. Kudos to author Aaron Allston for a job well done!


I found some minor glitches in the text. On page 163, for example, the Ascendancy label in the Date of Birth chart should be next to the Week label, above the Sun-Sky column.

Small geographical discrepancies appeared in the description of some of the Isle of Dawn's nations. Here are the updates:

The Northern Province marked on the map sheet is the layman's version of Provincia Septentriona (Septentriones referred to north stars in real-world Latin, thus the Northern Province meaning). The Province of Furmenglaive was listed as "Castle" Furmenglaive, which is wrong.

The "Northern Territories of Dawn" marked on the map sheet aren't listed in the book's atlas section. These bleak lands belong to Thyatis, but are administered by the Grand Duchy of Westrourke on behalf of Thyatis. It also should be noted that the actual Barony of Caerdwicca is part of the Southern Province (Provincia Meridiona) under Thyatis' control. Furmenglaive isn't, but still claims part of that province is land it legitimately owns (a mapper's Headache).

Part of the vast Dunadale Bogs are marked on the map sheet as Unclaimed, although they are theoretically part of the Dunadale Confederacy. This is mostly Tenderness infested with monsters and Humanoids, especially in the wake of the Great War's troubled times in Wrath of the Immortals. Finally, areas listed in the book for some of the Isle of Dawn's nations need to be adjusted to match their borders on the map sheet. The change was because the format and scale of the new map sheet, and some last-minute modifications that didn't make it into the book. The surface listed in the Almanac for Dunadale includes the Dunadale Bogs. The surface listed for Westrourke includes the Northern Territories of Dawn. Here are the corrected (approximate) areas:

Nation Area
East-Portage 79,690 sq. miles
Ekto 38,160 sq. miles
Furmenglaive 9,875 sq. miles
Helskir 8,980 sq. miles
Kendach 6,285 sq. miles
Southern Province 92,035 sq. miles
Trikelios 17,960 sq. miles

Other clarifications

The Kingdoms of Blackrock and Faraway and the region of Esterhold visible on the map sheet aren't covered in the book. This was our decision due to lack of space.

The town of Princetown in Bellissaria is part of the Kingdom of Notrion (the border location was ambiguous on the map sheet).

There should be a trail between Cairnport and Alchemos in Bellissaria.

There is a mislabelled "Whalers' Island" northeast of Oceansend (due to a wandering map tag originally intended for the island south of Qeodhar). This island should be called "Walrus Island" instead. Likewise, the unmarked island in Dobar Bay should be named Dobar Island.

On the north edge of the map sheet, the label "To Qeodhar (700 miles)" refers to the small arrow on its left. The arrow on its right refers to the "Flying Islands" label (the Kingdom of Floating Ar in case you wondered).

Despite the glitches, the Almanac provides a staggering amount of information, and its map sheet is the most detailed version so far of the Isle of Dawn/Bellissaria region. No doubt, new material and corrections will be added to a possible Volume 11 of the Almanac next year. We may start pushing westward toward the Savage Coast, on the trail of the Princess Ark. We hope AC 1011's events will be as exciting as AC 1010's. As usual, your comments on this first Almanac will be greatly appreciated and would certainly affect the development of a second volume.

More economics - population and food

In DRAGON issue #187, I responded to one letter on economics. I gave an example of how to figure out dominion income and some of the ruling costs to be expected. I did not give a system of determining the population per hex.

If you're not interested in researching historical data on medieval population densities, here's a quick system that should help you. The first thing to do is to divide the land into general categories - Suburban, Rural, Borderland, and Wilderness. Simply mark which hexes belong to which categories on your map, using the guidelines below (remember, this system is based on 8-mile hexes).

The actual population figures for urban centres (villages, small towns, large towns, and cities) are those given in the Rules Cyclopaedia, and are repeated here for your convenience. Note that population in a hex is always in addition to people living inside villages, forts, towns, or cities in that hex. People living inside these urban centres are considered "urban" population. Those living outside urban centres are considered "agricultural" population (food-producing, farming communities).

Area Population
Village 50-999
Small Town 1,000-4,999
Large Town 5,000-14,999
City 15,000 +

Suburban: A hex containing a large town or a city should belong to the "suburban" category. For a city of 100,000 inhabitants or more, the six adjacent hexes should be suburban hexes as well, provided they are inhabitable-ignore forested, desert, lake, or sea hexes, for example. If a city covers the entire surface of its hex, then don't count that hex for suburban population.

Rural: These are settled areas supporting farming families, loggers, hunters, and possibly villages, fortifications, and small towns. Rural areas should separate urban areas from borderland or wilderness territories.

Borderland: These areas are in the process of being settled. Laws are often poorly enforced there, and the local population is low. Borderland hexes may support villages, keeps, or fortifications.

Wilderness: These areas are uninhabited for the most part. Very few people may be found there. Wilderness can support the villages of primitive hunter-gatherer tribes only. Medieval military garrisons and other non-agricultural settlers would need to receive regular food supplies from agricultural areas.

Basic population per hex

Once the various land categories have been defined on the dominion's map, it is possible to assign a Basic Population, as follows (with 1 hex = 56 sq. miles).

Area Pop. density
Suburban 300 people/hex
Rural 100 people/hex
Borderland 50 people/hex
Wilderness 5 people/hex

Agricultural population often gathers in typical families of five people, small farming communities, and minor hamlets (fewer than 50 people) too small to appear on a Gazetteer-style map.

In regions with low agricultural potential (desert, steppes), population may consist of nomads (in Ethengar, for example). Although national population densities still hold true, a large portion of the population may travel in tribes or caravans rather than spread out evenly throughout the land. Local populations thus may vary with seasons and regional events.

Urban Population Relying on Maritime Resources

Urban Area Populations Land-oriented Average Sea-oriented
Village 50-999 up to 40% up to 650% up to 90%
Small town 1,000-4,999 up to 30% up to 50% up to 70%
Large town 5 000-14 999 up to 20% up to 35% up to 50%
City 15,000 + up to 10% up to 20% up to 30%

Terrain modifiers

Population varies with its hex's topography and vegetation. The terrain modifiers given below affect the basic population in each hex. Terrain modifiers themselves vary with other factors such as vegetation, the presence of water, and roads.

Area Pop. modifier
Flat terrain BP X 5
Hills BP X 4
Mountains BP X 3
Badlands* BP X 2
Desert BP X 1

* Include marshes, swamps, bogs, steppes, grasslands and broken lands.

Terrain Modifier
Jungle -3 to terrain modifier
Heavy forest -2 to terrain modifier
Light forest - 1 to terrain modifier
Volcano + 1 to terrain modifier
Trail + 1 to terrain modifier
Road + 2 to terrain modifier
River or oasis + 2 to terrain modifier
Lake/seashore + 2 to terrain modifier

Trail and Road modifiers are not cumulative. If both are present, use the Road modifier. Likewise for vegetation; it's one or the other. Volcanoes often cause surrounding lands to be very fertile. If a combination of terrain types yield a modifier equal to zero or a negative modifier, as with swampy jungle for example, assume the final population to be 1 inhabitant per hex (wilderness).

Example: We have a borderland oasis (two hexes), with a fort of 50 soldiers.

The terrain is borderland (basic pop. = 50). It is in the desert, so the terrain modifiers starts at X 1. The oasis adds + 2 to the terrain modifier, which then becomes X 3. The local population should be: 50 x 3 x 2 hexes = 300, plus the 50 soldiers.

The total population of the two oasis hexes adds up to 350 people. if there had been a trail crossing both hexes, the total population would have then reached 450 people instead.

There are limitations on some terrain types as to what basic population categories they can support. Heavy forest, jungle, forested hills, mountains, badlands, and desert hexes should be limited to wilderness or borderlands. Suburbs should be either on flat or hilly terrain (no forests, no swamps, etc.). Finally, forested hills are considered "heavily forested" (Gazetteer map symbols do not differentiate rightly forested hills from heavily forested hills.) Note that wood elves ignore limitations imposed on forested areas, and dwarves ignore limitations on mountains.

Real-life comparisons

To give some comparative insight to population levels, we could compare these numbers to current standards. Today, the real-world Netherlands support 910 inhabitants per square mile, compared to 36 people per square mile in Zaire, or 13 people per square mile in Saudi Arabia. Nowadays, it is common to see 80% or more of a nation's population concentrated in urban areas. In medieval times, it is likely to be just the opposite, with a least 80% living outside urban centres.

For simplicity's sake, let's assume medieval population is a mere tenth of our modern population levels. In other words, "medieval" Netherlands - a highly populated, mostly urban area - would show a population of 91 people per square mile. Zaire, largely jungle, would have a population of about four people per square mile. Ancient Saudi Arabia, a vast desert, ends up with a mere one person per square mile. Although this may not be historically correct, it is conceivable in game terms.

In the oasis example above, the total population reached 350 people in the oasis, which breaks down to about three people per square mile (350/112 = 3, rounded down). Throw in 10 extra hexes of true, wilderness desert without trails, and we end up close to ancient Arabia's population.

Feel free to tweak these numbers to get desired results. Although this system may not cover all eventualities, it should get you on the track to establishing predictable population levels.

Now you can start collecting those dominion taxes and build your armies! Assuming a provost can collect taxes from too people a day and there are 28 days in a Mystaran month, you'll need one provost and his armed guards for each 2,800 people in the dominion to collect all the monthly taxes. These are handy, average statistics for the game, which should be applied to the entire population (agricultural and urban put together) and not to specific segments of the population.


We know at least 80% of the total population lives outside urban centres. These are the people producing food. Urban and other non-food-producing population relies on services for its survival (commerce, military, manual trades, etc.) and purchases the food it needs from nearby farmland. Any kind of serious mining also wipes out farming in that hex. Note that wilderness population should not be counted as an agricultural force in this context since the infrastructure does not exist to collect and transport any "surplus" food from wilderness to settled regions. Wilderness population only produces what it needs to sustain itself. For the same reasons, wilderness population cannot be taxed.

In the case of the borderland oasis mentioned earlier, all its civilian population, 300 people, qualify as agricultural (farmers). They can produce food for up to 75 people in addition to themselves 300/ = 75. This is more than enough to supply the 50 soldiers inside the fort.

Had the oasis covered only one hex, the civilian population would have included only 150 farmers - enough to support no more than 37 soldiers (150/4 = 37 rounded down). As a result, food supplies would have to be regularly carted in from other regions of the dominion to feed the remainder of the oasis's military garrison (13 soldiers). This little detail implies either that this garrison's military strength should be reduced to become self-sufficient, or that a trail be built to consolidate the fort's supply lines. This is an example of how economic considerations can affect military strategy.


Ports, either on a lake or a sea, may change the 80/20 urban to agricultural balance. Part of the urban population could count on maritime resources, such as fishing, as way to feed itself and generate extra revenue. The number of fishermen in an urban area varies with the region's traditions and naval skills. The name table provides guidelines on how much of an urban population may rely on fish to feed itself, as opposed to food drawn from the land.

Land-oriented: This would be people relying mostly on agriculture, either because of their culture or poor navigational and shipbuilding skills. This would include desert raiders, mountain dwarves, wood elves, orcs, Ethengarians, Darokinians, etc.

Average: This would be people with reasonable navigational and shipbuilding skills (Karameikos, Five Shires). The majority of human cultures living on mainland coastal areas belong to this category.

Sea-oriented: This would be people with generally good maritime skills, or a tradition of reliance upon produce of the sea or of the lakes. These would include civilisations native to islands and such notorious seafaring people as Ostlanders, Ierendians, Minrothadians, or Pearl islanders. If agriculture is abundant, the surplus could be traded to another region lacking these resources. This, in turn, fuels urban commerce as well as the politics.

Make a list of the urban centres that can draw upon fishing resources. Apply the percentages listed in the chart above to find out more exactly how many people rely on fishing. Treat that part of the population as "agricultural" rather than "urban" when dealing with the food factor. The same kind of reasoning applies for entire nations. If the agricultural population of a nation is unable to provide enough food for its urban dwellers, several things could happen. Either townspeople starve (with riots and revolts ensuing), or they import food from a neighbouring kingdom. This can happen only if their neighbours have a sufficient food surplus (they have more than 80% of their own population living outside urban centres.) Otherwise, it may be time to invade the neighbour's farmland.