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Background on Hollow Moon Magic

by Sharon Dornhoff

When the Hollow World boxed set was published, its designers took steps to change the way magic worked in that setting, in order to reflect the overall "exploration" theme of the HW, and the kinds of adventures they felt the place was suited for. Some categories of magic -- charms, communing, teleports -- were banned outright, as they'd eliminate the need for PCs to travel and discover the setting's wonders for themselves. Others -- heavy-hitting combat spells like Fireballs -- were permitted to visiting characters from the surface world, but not to HW natives; presumably, this was to put the PCs in the same position, relative to the indigenous cultures, as firearms put the historical conquistadors or the protagonists of Burroughs' assorted "Lost World" novels. (Of course, having given player characters such a huge tactical advantage, the designers then reversed course and made HW cultures unalterable, so those pesky outer-world PCs wouldn't run roughshod over the locals...! ;-D) Backstory about the Spell of Preservation and Thanatos' attempted corruption of the Brute-Men was then written into HW history, to account for these changes in the core OD&D rules; but ultimately, it was the writers' desire to give the Hollow World a "theme" -- just as Ravenloft or Red Steel have "themes" which are reinforced by altered magic -- that motivated the Spell of Preservation's inclusion in the setting ... NOT the (deus ex machina) Immortals' need to imprison the (plot device) Burrowers.

Keeping this need to make magic fit a setting's "style"/"mood" in mind -- and with helpful suggestions from the MMB; thanks, guys! :-) -- I've worked out some changes to the standard RC and PHB spell lists, that I hope will suit the kind of adventures an always-twilight setting brings to mind. Specifically, I've tried to bias the way Hollow Moon magic works, to promote wit, deception, and subtlety over brute force and Fireball-slinging. At the same time, I prohibited those spells which would undermine DMs' efforts to enact mystery stories, shadowy conspiracies, and other behind-the-scenes scenarios that a well-placed ESP spell would demolish. (Readers who are familiar with the Ravenloft and MotRD rules will recognise many of these changes, as they're just as appropriate in keeping the Hollow Moon mysterious, as the AD&D game's horror settings.) Any and all of these alterations to magic are optional, of course -- if you don't agree with them, don't use them -- but as a whole, I think they'll make the HM setting pretty distinctive, in the methods characters have to fall back upon to accomplish their goals. That's the out-of-character explanation, for why magic works a little differently in Matera, than it does on Mystara's surface ... or in the Hollow World, for that matter.

As for the IN-character explanation, there are two factors which influence the way magic operates in the Hollow Moon setting: the impenetrable lunar bedrock, which prevents detection or transport magics from breaching the boundary between Matera's interior and the outside; and the HM's own answer to the original SoP, the Spell of Remembrance. The former effect will be accounted for in another thread -- "HM Secrets"... spoilers, galore! ;-D -- in the (distant) future. For now, you can assume that the crystalline bedrock's effect is identical to that of Mystara's World-Shield, such that known divinatory magics never reveal the moon's hollowness, and transport-magics such as teleports or wormholes can't get a "fix" on HM locations. The latter effect, like the HW Spell of Preservation, was laid down by the four Immortals who maintain the Hollow Moon as a refuge; but, unlike the SoP, it was a product of lengthy planning and forethought, not a "rush job" they'd whipped up in a crisis. Thanatos never forced the hands of the Hollow Moon's guardians, so the culture-preserving and spell-dampening enchantment which Ka and his associates laid on Matera is much more subtle and selective than the heavy-handed SoP.

And, would you believe, Materans owe this distinction in their world's magic to -- of all people! -- Demogorgon...?

Ancient Matera: Reptilian Races of the Hollow Moon

Like the Hollow World, the Hollow Moon setting vastly pre-dates Mystara's recorded history. For thousands of years before (demi)human races walked the lands, both museum-worlds were used by the ancient Immortals as gargantuan "nature reserves" for plants, animals, and other non-sentient life forms they deemed too precious or interesting to see extinguished. All through the Age of Reptiles, species which were driven to extinction on the surface found new opportunities in the havens which the five protector-Immortals -- Ixion in the HW, Seshay-Selene in the HM, and Ka, Ordana, and Korotiku in both -- had prepared for them. Early on, these rescued species had typically succumbed to natural selection, environmental changes, or the rise of new competitors on Mystara. As time passed, the rate of extinctions rose, as new forces emerged on the surface world ... forces against which no other species of life could long stand. Those twin forces were intelligence and self-awareness; and the first true races -- as opposed to isolated flukes of nature, like Ka or Ordana -- to possess these gifts were reptiles, like all the dominant land-based life of their era.

They were the pteryx and the Ur-Carnifex.

Descendants of rhamphorhychid pterosaurs, the pteryx were a communal race of fish-eating flyers, reclusive in their habits and with a reverence for abstract knowledge. From their earliest days, they were blessed with the inborn power of telepathy amongst their own kind -- a magical extension of their ancient flocking-instincts and the bustling sociability of their rookeries -- and a collective intellect which was alien, yet formidable. The Ur-Carnifex were a savage race of intelligent struthiomimids*, much given to intertribal feuding and the vengeful use of wokanism. Rapacious hunters, they upset the natural balance of their habitats much as modern humanoids often do, and their unruly populations constantly suffered from squalor, plague, and starvation. For millennia unknown to Mystara's modern races, the Ur-Carnifex tribes fought bitter wars over the resources of the lowland wilderness, while disdainful pteryx soared above their squabblings, building inaccessible cities in the peaks of coastal mountains. Both races distrusted and avoided the other, the Ur-Carnifex out of superstition, the pteryx out of contempt. And -- like the particular reptile species from which they'd evolved -- both races were nocturnal, and would one day become the first sentient immigrants to the Hollow Moon.

[* - This is the dinosaur taxon upon which the famous "dinosauroid" -- a hypothetical human-like, intelligent dinosaur, as might have evolved on Earth had the Cretaceous never ended -- was modelled by palaeontologists, as a sort of 'What if...?' scenario. The aliens from the "V" television series were based on dinosauroids, as were a race of long-lost Earth dinosaur-people on "Star Trek: Voyager".]

Roughly sixteen thousand years ago, and for reasons untold by the Immortals, this long-standing picture of Ur-Carnifex barbarism and pteryx indifference changed. A new breed of carosauroid emerged, lighter of build and more adaptable than the Ur-Carnifex, which possessed both the intellectual capacities of the pterosauroids and the aggressive nature of their land-bound tribal predecessors. Moreover, these newcomers gained great magical prowess almost immediately upon their appearance, and they advanced from Neolithic hunters to Iron Age city-dwellers in a matter of centuries, not millennia. Such a rapid ascent by a mortal civilisation was unprecedented, on Mystara -- indeed, on any of the planets of which the early Immortals were yet aware -- and the superior intelligence of the "Greater" Carnifex (who were akin to Ur-Carnifex much as humans are akin to garls), alone, couldn't possibly account for how their race bypassed so many of the pitfalls into which other fledgling races, on other worlds, had stumbled.

The Ur-Carnifex were the first victims of their Carnifex cousins' success. As powerless to compete with these smaller, quick-thinking newcomers as the Brute-Men would be ten millennia in the future, their culture was swiftly pushed aside by the well-organised and spell-armed Greater Carnifex, raided for slaves, supplanted from their tribelands, and eventually all but annihilated. By 14,000 BC, only a handful of Ur-Carnifex hunting bands lingered on, eking out a precarious existence on the slopes of barren, geologically-unstable mountains that were unsuitable for the rival carnosauroids' needs. Realising their total extinction on Mystara's surface was imminent, Ka the Preserver transported the crumbling remnants of the six remaining Ur-tribes to the Hollow Moon, scattering them throughout the southern half of an as-yet-unpopulated Nearside.

The pteryx culture -- able to barter its compiled knowledge with the Greater Carnifex for a time -- held out longer. Communicating with the carnosauroids was difficult, as the telepathic pterosaur-folk could mind-speak only within their own species, and had never developed neurological mechanisms to master verbal speech; nevertheless, enough meaning could be conveyed through gestures for the pteryx to make themselves useful to the demanding land-goers. A shaky truce was established, though the explosive spread of Carnifex civilisation rapidly overran the coastal regions of Cretaceous Mystara. Finding their traditional fishing-grounds usurped by the newcomers, the pteryx were slowly pushed inland, changing their feeding habits to subsist on aquatic mammals and other vermin.

The eventual creation of troglodytes by Carnifex wizards -- a slave-race which communicated through scents, not just words -- eased the language barrier to pteryx/carnosauroid relations; the olfactory signals of the trogs were intelligible to the pteryx, permitting them to serve as spokesmen for their Carnifex masters. Unfortunately, by the time Greater Carnifex magic had progressed this far, they'd out-stripped the pteryx in knowledge, as well as in power, and had grown resentful of the flyers' pretensions as the oldest civilised race. With the same arrogance, and amoral disregard for right or wrong, which would one day set them against the very Immortals, the Carnifex inevitably turned on their pterosauroid neighbours and sought to seize their remaining hoards of ancient wisdom by force. Pushed as far as they could be pushed, the pteryx resisted. The result was centuries of warfare, in which land-bound Carnifex forces harried the pteryx from one mountain aerie to the next; and the slow but inexorable extermination of the pterosauroids, who -- like dragons, or many modern demihumans -- were long-lived, but extremely slow to breed.

In 12,500 BC, mere hours before Attyx -- the last pteryx city still untouched by the conflict -- could fall to Carnifex forces, the Immortal Ka transported the entire pterosauroid settlement to the lunar Apennines, dousing the fires of the range's highest volcano and setting the city down within its silenced crater. A rag-tag horde of renegade troglodytes -- escapees from Carnifex slave-pits -- accompanied the winged exiles on this journey, and colonised the nearby Marsh of Putrescence. Back on Mystara, the loss of their only remaining secure outpost spelt the end for the pteryx and their futile struggle. Within thirty years, the pterosauroids had been entirely subjugated by their enemies, whose cruelty and vengefulness now revealed themselves to be greater, for all their veneer of civilisation, than those of their Ur-Carnifex ancestors. Within three centuries, Carnifex atrocities would spell the doom of the last Mystaran pteryx ... and would drive one of their number to seek Immortality -- at ANY price -- to avenge her people.

Ancient Matera: Demogorgon and the Saurolunarian Conflict

Among telepaths such as pteryx, twins are often linked more strongly than any other individuals. The pteryx who became the fiend Demogorgon was one such -- an identical twin, hatched from the same egg as her sibling -- and, like all such twin-born hatchlings of her race, could sense her sister's thoughts and experiences even at a distance of many miles. Raised from birth as privileged royalty, these twins served as long-range communicators in the bitter war against the Carnifex, exchanging information on enemy troop-movements and coordinating the counterattacks of pteryx and renegade troglodytes. At all costs, pteryx military strategy demanded that the few twin-born pairs available to their armies be protected from harm or capture. Demogorgon (a name she took as a fiend; the pteryx, as mute telepaths, neither have nor need personal names) was lucky enough to be shielded by her fellows, in every battle in which she participated as a communicator. Her sister, tragically, was nowhere near so fortunate: she was taken alive, and tortured to death by Carnifex priests of the Outer Beings, not long after Attyx's mysterious disappearance. Subjected to the priests' otherworldly rites and sadism, it took several weeks for the hapless pterosauroid to die.

Demogorgon -- mentally bonded to her twin in a link that couldn't be severed even if she wished it; tuned in to her sister's pain, her fear, her helplessness, her anger, her desperation, her isolation, her despair -- felt it all.

It was too much even for the level-headed pteryx mind to bear. In a frenzy of grief, Demogorgon deserted her besieged people and flew into the heartlands of Carnifex territory, where she literally led the life of a night-stalking monster, brutally slaying lone Carnifex or troglodyte slaves under cover of darkness, and vanishing into the depths of cliffside caverns by day. A serial killer with wings and talons, the deranged communicator strove to silence the echo of her sister's mental screams with the silenced breath and pulse of every carnosauroid she could catch, be it by stealth or trickery or brute force. No match for the Carnifex army or the ruling class which had ordered her people's extermination -- much less, the sinister priesthood of the Outer Beings, which was rising in power among her enemies -- she turned her vendetta on the trogs and commoners who'd had nothing to do with the war: simply having scales, two legs, no wings, and a tail was sufficient grounds to die, by Demogorgon's twisted logic. It was a logic which would keep the elusive once-twin alive and free, even after her pteryx fellows had been crushed by Carnifex military/magical might, and it won her the attention -- and approval -- of the ancient Immortal Thanatos.

Irritated that the Greater Carnifex -- who'd shown such promise! -- were turning to otherworldly entities, rather than Entropy, as a focus for their darkest ambitions, Thanatos chose to sponsor the half-mad pteryx communicator on the Path of Immortality, promising her the power and opportunity to destroy the Carnifex if she succeeded. No longer caring what means she might call upon, to avenge herself, her sister and her race, Demogorgon eagerly agreed. Her Entropic patron sent her questing into alternate worlds and against the carnosauroids she loathed, periodically placing her into suspended animation, so he might call her to service when next she could be of service in his own dark plots. Eventually, he demanded that she corrupt the tattered remnants of her own people, in the Hollow Moon, as a final proof of her commitment. For the first time, doubts crept into the pteryx's addled mind -- Was it worth it to avenge her kind, if the price of vengeance meant forever marring its sole surviving members...? -- but her bitter rage outweighed her second thoughts. In a final gesture of loyalty to Entropy's cause and methods, Demogorgon coaxed her HM fellows into enslaving the troglodytes who'd once joined them as allies, and deceived them into thinking that only telepathic creatures were truly sentient, or anything but witless prey. Using an artifact she'd stolen from the Carnifex priesthood, she cursed her people to automatically deem speaking races no more than dumb beasts, forgetting or ignoring any evidence -- clothes, tools, spellcasting -- that might suggest otherwise. Then, she deliberately led a group of young pteryx into an Ur-Carnifex ambush, and sat back to watch as the lunar pteryx ruthlessly wiped out the "wild animals" that'd dared attack their children.

It was a successful end to Demogorgon's search for Immortality. But it didn't bring her the vengeance she'd craved, for it came centuries too late. Unbeknownst to her, Thanatos had kept her in suspended animation for far longer than she'd been led to believe -- so long, that the Mystaran Carnifex had already attained enormous power, challenged the Immortals, made pacts with forbidden forces... and been forever banished for their crimes, beyond mortal ken and beyond her own now-Immortal reach. The chance to destroy her enemies in blood and fire had slipped through her grasp, for their entire civilisation had already BEEN destroyed. The great and noble reptiles of her own era were dwindling, had all but vanished from the planet's surface; ugly, hairy, tailless things now wandered the realms her people had once soared above like overlords, killing game with spears and calling each other by crude, guttural sounds -- Brod, Krukk, Mak-rur, Ka-gar -- instead of speaking mind-to-mind. The Hollow World was nothing but a sun-seared zoo devoid of sentient life, in which she had no interest. Only in the Hollow Moon, where her own people were systematically driving the Ur-Carnifex from their lands as "dangerous beasts", did she find anything to assuage her hatred. And even there, the failure of her former people to see victory in the barbarian carnosauroids' defeats -- for, to the HM pteryx, they were merely killing pestiferous animals, NOT "enemies"! -- soured the sweet vengeance she'd longed for.

What followed, for the HM setting, was a long period of "hit and run" attempts by Demogorgon -- still half-crazy; still embittered; still looking to destroy the Carnifex (or if not them, their primitive predecessors) -- to rile the lunar pteryx into real warfare against the Ur-Carnifex tribes, and countermoves by Ka and the other Hollow Moon patrons to prevent the carnosauroids' total extirpation from their adopted homes within Matera. The pteryx Immortal never quite managed to make her mortal fellows see the Ur-Carnifex as a serious threat; the Hollow Moon's major patrons, distracted by the emerging crisis of the Burrowers in their other museum-world, couldn't quite find the time or opportunity to track down and retaliate against Demogorgon or end her spiteful interference. Frustrated, Seshay-Selene -- who had no commitment to HW problems, just Matera's -- eventually moved the Ur-Carnifex tribes to the Jura Mountains on the far side of the Oceanus Procellarum from the HM pteryx. It was an act of last resort -- the climate there was far colder there than in the original territories of the Ur-Carnifex, such that only by increasing volcanism there could she make it livable for them -- but it did place hundreds of miles of crystalbarrens between the pterosauroids and their victims, and forced Demogorgon to turn her increasingly-destructive attentions to other puppets, such as fiend-worshippers and, eventually, the lizardman-hating gator folk of Ator.

The separation of the two ancient races -- along with the first arrivals of other cultures within Matera, around that time -- put an end to the "Saurolunarian Conflict".* It didn't ease the HM Immortals' concerns, however; events within the Hollow World had proven that Entropy had far worse weapons than a screwy pteryx novice at its disposal, to disrupt the museum-worlds' peace. Thanatos' initial neglect of the Hollow Moon setting, as a potential object of sabotage, couldn't be counted on anymore, now that races less savage than the Ur-Carnifex and more inclined to compassion than the pteryx were being transplanted to the Nearside. It was pure coincidence, that the first two races brought to Matera were, or had become, malignant enough for the Entropics not to bother with them! With the subsequent additions of the cryions, Mare Humorum shark-kin, Old Aran's aranea and phanatrels, and especially the pisachas (whom Thanatos personally despises), the malign forces of the Sphere of Death wouldn't leave well enough alone, much longer.

[* - That's what the HM pteryx call it, in their histories; in their eyes, it was never really a "war", as the Ur-Carnifex were viewed as mere beasts. To the Ur-Carnifex, it was the "Time of Winged Demons", and is vaguely remembered in oral traditions. To the Hollow Moon's patron Immortals, it's described as "way back when that lunatic pterosaur kept making a pest of herself". ;-D]

An immediate solution would've been to repeat what had just been done, for the Hollow World, and impose a Spell of Preservation upon the HM setting, thus fixing its cultures and species as they were for all time. However, "time" -- or rather, Time -- argued against this quick-and-dirty fix, for Matera! In the previous decision to freeze HW societies for eternity, the sole voice which spoke for the Sphere of Time, and the virtue and necessity of change in all things, had been Ordana ... and her views had been quickly overruled by her Immortal associates. But the Hollow Moon's "design team" had a different makeup, thanks to the inclusion of Seshay-Selene and the absence of the Sun-Prince, Ixion; together, the sisterly Time-Immortals could deadlock Ka and Korotiku. And the latter -- always eager to out-fox Entropy -- was willing to consider any alternative solutions the whale and treant might come up with, to foil the Immortals who'd work against them, WITHOUT costing Materan societies their dynamic potential. Though leery about waiting for a new plan and giving Entropy more time to insinuate itself, Ka had already recognised that he wasn't running the show for the Hollow Moon, the way he'd been, with the Hollow World: change, good or bad, would have to have a place there. The Preserver didn't argue, but immediately set about seeking a power source for whatever magical effect the other three settled upon. In this, he succeeded, by devising ways to tap into the considerable reserves of untapped energy he'd detected, all locked within the matter of the moon's weird crystalline bedrock.

Ka's associates also succeeded, thanks to Korotiku's genius, Ordana's wisdom, and Seshay-Selene's pragmatic ingenuity. The Hollow Moon's Spell of Remembrance -- a cyclical, not static, protective magic that maintains and guards Materan cultures -- is their solution.