The Known World. A place of warring Empires, Horseclans, City States, Frontier lands, Merchant Princes, rugged Norsemen and much, much more. It’s a campaign world unlike any other for more reasons to count. Here’s just a few.
1) It’s not been messed with. Use the Known World as presented in the Rules Cyclopedia and you have a campaign world that’s every bit as fresh, vibrant and exciting as it ever has been. It’s not been buggered around with due to changes in Editions of the game or marketing visions (so long as you ignore AD&D’s attempt to make Mystara into some kidified setting, which I do). The hard-to-find Almanacs of the Known World (continued by fans here) provided a wealth of plot-hooks, ideas and really brought the setting to life without all those revisionist revisions that plague the other D&D gameworlds. Forgotten Realms, I’m looking at you.
2) The Known World uses cultures and civilisations modelled on those we’re familiar with. From the expansionist Thyatis Empire (*cough* Romans *cough*) to native Tradalarans of Karameikos (Celts!), from the Emirates of Ylaruam to Soderfjord, Vestland and Ostland, these are cultures we can relate to, and therefore differentiate. If I ask you to picture a Thyatian Nobleman, you’ll picture a guy in a toga, and will instinctively know what a charging Vestland Berserker is wearing on his head. That sense of the familiar makes the setting a much more vibrant place – we can picture the styles, architecture and lands based on our own knowledge. To do that in “more” fantastic gameworld, and you’ll need to buy a lot of supplements.
3) The Players can own a part of it! I’m repeating myself, but it’s worth repeating. Hit 9th level, and the character is rewarded with a Dominion. This is an 8-mile hex of land that’s theirs to rule as proxy. That’s about 55 square miles. To put that into context, imagine drawing a 4 mile radius circle around where you live, and being able to say “I own this”. In my case here in the North of England that’ll encompass about 8 villages, 2 towns, 1 Castle and several Halls, most of which have been around since Roman times in one form or another. Take a look at all those hexes on the map. One of them could be yours!
4) Zooming out, the larger maps of the Known World use 24-mile hexes. Each hex is around 500 square miles in size. The entire planet is about 19,500 miles in circumference, and the Known World potion is just a teeny, tiny patch of land on the continent of Brun – kinda like the area around the Mediterranean Sea was the Known World back in the day. All the rest – it’s your own private sandbox playground. Some of the other areas have been expanded – the Serpent Peninsula and Alphatia, for example – but nothing is immune to your GM wiles. Want a gameworld that gets you started but has millions of miles of unexplored territory? This one’s for you.
5) Oh, and it’s Hollow. If one world isn’t enough, there’s another one right under your feet (give or take a few hundred miles). Thanks to the efforts of Ka the Preserver and other Immortals, civilisations that were at-risk of extinction were moved to the inside of the planet and given a prepetual sun of their own. Which is nice. If your players are the kind of folks who prefer battling with primitive Dinosaur Cults, meddling in Aztec politics and rubbing shoulders long-forgotten cultures (who don’t know they’re long-forgotten), then maybe a trip Down Under (no, not Australia) is the order of the day.
Did I mention the Known World is pretty awesome? No?
Next: Putting it all together.