Design Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying

DnD Mystara Part 01 Five Elements

Dungeons and Dragons – Mystara

Design Part 1 – The Five Elements

The world of Mystara for my campaign, has been cleaned up for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. For this I have converted it to incorporate a five element concept that all the gods (known as Immortals) of the setting are organised under. I am rebuilding my version of the world to follow these principles of the five as my players progress through the story and explore the world.

The design is split into these main concepts and I am proving an overview of the design for:

Part 1 – The Five Elements

In the setting of Mystara, they have a concept of five that is used in a lot of places, so I have taken that concept of five and used it to expand how most of it is used in game. For example:

  • The Five Spheres of Power
  • The Five levels of Weapons Mastery
  • The Five levels of a Secret Craft
  • The five elemental subtypes of races
  • The five elements of the world
  • Five tiers of play (in this setting, tier five is immortality and achievable through play)
  • There are a further five tiers of immortality advancement, once you achieve the first step.

This leads us to what are the actual five elements of the world.

  • Air
  • Darkness
  • Earth
  • Fire
  • Water

Each of these elements feature in different ways. For example, races gain features based on what element their subrace is connected to, which can provide mechanical and cultural in game benefits.

Part 2 – The Five Spheres of Power

(More detail in Part 2 – The Five Spheres of Power)

There are five spheres of power, they are not good, nor evil. How the power is used marks the alignment. If any one sphere becomes dominant over the others then the world falls out of balance and major events come into play to correct that imbalance. This is the premise of the campaign, and is corrected is needed

  • Sphere of Energy – The principle of Energy is associated with activity and chaos, as well as the magical schools of Abjuration, Evocation (Fire/Radiant), Conjuration (Fire/Celestials/Constructs) and the element of fire.
    • Energy dominates Matter by making it unstable, opposes Thought’s categorisation, and is subject to Time’s organisation. Fire burns earth and is in turn quenched by water.
    • Energy type of fire and radiant, colour of red, desires activity and chaos.
    • If you worship an energy Immortal, you gain the protected by energy class feature.
  • Sphere of Matter – The principle of Matter is associated with stasis and stability, as well as the magical schools of Evocation (Acid/Poison), Conjuration (Earth/Creatures of the Land), Transmutation and the element of earth.
    • Matter dominates Thought by forcing it to be logical, opposes Time’s attempts to change things, and is subject to Energy’s introduction of chaos. Earth chokes air and is in turn burned by fire.
    • Energy type of acid and poison, colour of green, desires stasis and stability.
    • If you worship a matter Immortal, you gain the protected by matter class feature.
  • Sphere of Thought – The principle of Thought is associated with perception and categorisation of things, as well as the magical schools of Evocation (Lightning/Thunder), Conjuration (Air/Creatures of Flights), Enchantment, Illusion and the element of air.
    • Thought dominates Time by enforcing free will, opposes Energy’s chaos, and is subject to Matter’s restriction. Wind dries water and is in turn blocked by earth.
    • Energy types of thunder and electricity, colour of white, desires perception and categorisation.
    • If you worship a thought Immortal, you gain the protected by thought class feature.
  • Sphere of Time – The principle of Time is associated with steady change, as well as the magical schools of Evocation (Cold/Force), Conjuration (Water/Creatures of the Water), Divination and the element of water.
    • Time dominates Energy’s chaos by organising its change, opposes Matter’s stability, and is subject to Thought’s imposition of free will. Water quenches fire and is in turn dried by wind.
    • Energy type of cold and force, colour of blue, desires steady change.
    • If you worship a time immortal, you gain the protected by time class feature.
  • Sphere of Entropy – The principle of Entropy is associated with death and destruction, as well as the magic schools of Evocation (Necrotic/Psychic), Conjuration (Fiends/Undead), Necromancy and the element of darkness.
    • Entropy is in opposition to all the other principles. Entropy seeks to Destroy Matter, dissipate Energy, stagnate Time, and Stifle Thought.
    • Energy type of necrotic and psychic, colour of black, desires death and destruction.
    • If you worship an entropy immortal, you gain the protected by entropy class feature.

Part 3 – Pantheons of the Gods

(More detail in Part 3 – Pantheons of the Gods)
see also Pantheons and Gods page references

All the gods will be arranged in pantheons, with a unique name for every pantheon they belong to as the name defines the aspect, belief and options. Not that a single god can’t be followed but the pantheons are being organised under the following considerations:

  • Racial – available at Tier 1 and deals with a specific race and their beliefs
  • Cultural – available at Tier 1 and deals with a culture that allows more than one race to participate in their beliefs
  • Elemental – available at Tier 2 (or Tier 1 if a druid) and deals with an elemental belief structure
  • Sphere – available at Tier 3 and deal with a sphere of power belief structure
  • Immortal – available at Tier 4 and deals with Immortal politics
  • Ancient – lost and forgotten pantheons

Each god will need to fit into its own part of the pantheon as well as the Hierarchies of the spheres. The original design philosophy of the spheres was that there could only be a set amount of gods at any level, and to advance, some would need to be reduced or removed. I have 166 gods listed and undertaking a clean up and rationalisation of them for my campaign world that will make them unique to my setting. A great source of material has been Vaults of Pandius.

Part 4 – The Divine Features

(More details in Part 4 – The Divine Features)

This is a new concept that I have added around the Gods providing second chances to its followers. Those who follow gods don’t die when they are reduced to zero hit points, they get the standard saving throws. They also gain other benefits when dealing with people of their culture.

As I progress with more information relating to each of the pantheons, they will gain more information specific to that pantheon as revealed in the ongoing story narrative.

Part 5 – The Reference Material

(More details in Part 5 – The Reference Material)

This is a list with comments on the sourcebooks, of where I have sourced all the material I am using to rebuild my version of the Mystara setting. It also contains where and when I expect to be using that material.

Part 6 – Mystara Races Overview

(More details in Part 6 – Mystara Races Overview)

All the races are planned to be updated with an Elemental Theme.

With each of these spheres of power, the design concept is to move the racial types into having five sub-types, where one is aligned with each of the spheres. This will re-work a few things, but I believe it will help with a design philosophy to keep things consistent over my changes. Each of the existing races and subraces will be reconfigured to represent this design.

Half-race species are not available to players as I have moved them into the myth they are referred to. All half-races are a magic by product. They have a tendency to go insane, betray and kill those who care about them the most. All races fear and hate half-breeds because of this.

For example: as an early concept for names, Mountain Gnomes (Matter) known to live underground and are the crafters, Forest Gnomes (Energy) known to live on the ground and are the arcanists, Sky Gnomes (Thought) known to live in the sky and are the inventors, Ocean Gnomes (Time) who most believe do not exist and Void Gnomes (Entropy) who no one wishes to ever meet.

Part 7 – Secret Crafts Overview

(More details in Part 7 – Secret Crafts Overview)

There are a number of secret crafts of Glantri in the source material, but I have expanded this to link into the five elements so there are crafts that suit all the spheres, and moved the crafts into a grant from the gods. So these become the special powers of followers of the gods.

To learn a secret craft, you need to gain prestige in the craft, find a teacher, get sponsored and live up to the ideas of the craft to advance and become a true master of the craft. All the paths of immortality have been re-worked to be linked to the secret crafts.

Using a secret craft is dangerous as you are channelling the power of the god provided the craft through your mortal body without the protection of spells, talismans or rituals.

All spells that do not come from the players handbook are subject to the secret crafts and will not be generally available otherwise.

Part 8 – Weapons Mastery Overview

(More details in Part 8 – Weapons Mastery Overview)

These rules exist in the Rules Cyclopedia for the original version of the game released in the 80s.

An aspect of the setting is Weapons Mastery which is the ability to cause more damage with weapons as you become better skilled at wielding them. So a 1st level fighter cannot compete to the damage a 20th level fighter with the same strength could do. There are other balances in the game, but this is one of the flavour options I have brought into my 5E campaign. It is a human cultural advancement, so not all races in the world have adopted it, and some will shun it for that story reason.

What this introduces is a five tier system of competency showing how characters become more powerful with training.

  • Non-Proficient
  • Proficient
  • Skilled
  • Expert
  • Master
  • Grand Master

Part 9 – Setting Overview

(More details in Part 9 – Setting Overview)

The setting and information about how it is laid out for players to get an understanding of the region of play. This includes (and will expand) all the Gazetteer regions of the Known World and places they have travelled to in the storyline. This will expand as I migrate material from my Game Management Site.

Part 10 – Timeline Overview

(More details in Part 10 – Timeline Overview)

This goes onto a breakdown of when and where the different adventures are location. This is linked to the published adventures as this more concerned with the when of the storyline, with some reference as to where it happens.

Part 11 – Magical Item Overview

(More details in Part 11 – Magical Item Overview)

With the concept of five things of important with the setting, all magical items can have the following: Standard abilities, Attuned abilities, Awakened abilities, Exalted abilities and Relic abilities.

I have looked at the magic of my setting and reworked it such that all non-expendable magical items have the ability to used freely, attuned, enhanced and finally to become exalted. Each level increases the power of the item. The first two are generally generic powers, with the last two relating to the specific item in question and how it was used. Every item in the game will have a unique name, history and eventually powers as they grow with the storyline.

Also there are now relics, where an item related to your race will give you powers it does not give one not of your race. All magical items will have a Relic aspect for a race that get a little more out of the item than everyone else.

Artefacts are terrifying to the population, they are a link to the gods, but all carry the curse of their god in different ways. Just holding the item grants you the curse, and you can never hold more than one that does not have a special type of synergy. An artefact chooses you, not the other way around… To further their uniqueness, I am incorporating the rules for artefacts from the setting providing unique aspects not in the current items.

Part 12 – The Classes Overview

(More details in Part 12 – The Classes Overview)

My class options are also being cleaned up to represent where someone would go to learn mastery of classes. Each winter, characters are expected to find a master to teach them enough to gain a level. There are no level gains mid story, they are all happening over the winter break. Some have been done with downtime rolls, but in future I am planning on moving that to more story than mechanic. This will be discussed with my players.

I have made classes a cultural thing in the setting. So if you want to learn a specific class archetype, you need to travel to a nation that is teaching it, and find a teacher willing to show you how it is done.

Part 13 – The Downtime Activities

(More details in Part 13 – The Downtime Activities)

While technically this part was written before the rest, it is an important part of the world design as it is how much of the above material is related to players in session and with each level they take. Downtime is all about improving a character, either by abilities, materials or knowledge.

Part 14 – Immortality

(More details in Part 14 – Immortality Overview)

This is where the updated rules will be discussed and worked out allowing characters to become truely immortal in the setting and stand among the gods.

Part 15 – Elemental Aspects

(more details in Part 15 – Elemental Aspects)

This is a revisit on the concepts of elemental races in the setting and resulted in the re-writing of those races to fit the setting better.

Concluding Comments

This is a broad overview of my changes to the Mystara setting for my players that make it my own world, and the will know where I have place most of my design work. This is not an official version of the setting, but it will be consistent and I will continue to develop and build upon it as I have over the last 30 years of running it as my base setting.

This is still a work in progress and will be updated as I continue to work on things over the years.

Content Updates

  • 2021-07-31 – Fixing broken links.
  • 2021-05-23 – Adding to the conclusion, and linking content.
  • 2020-10-16 – Cleaned up the spheres of power.
  • 2020-09-18 – Added in section for Elemental Aspects with a page cleanup.
  • 2020-07-20 – Added in section for Immortality.
  • 2020-05-10 – Added in details related to Downtime.
  • 2020-04-19 – Adding in details about the five elements that was missing.
  • 2020-04-18 – Structure and update.
WRATH Design

Setting Design:
Part 1 – Five Elements,
Part 2 – Five Spheres,
Part 3 – Pantheons,
Part 4 – Divine Features,
Part 5 – Reference Material,
Part 6 – Races,
Part 7 – Secret Crafts,
Part 8 – Weapons Mastery,
Part 9 – Setting,
Part 10 – Timeline,
Part 11 – Magical Item,
Part 12 – Classes,
Part 13 – Downtime,
Part 14 – Immortality,
Part 15 – Elemental Aspects,
Part 16 – Immortal Patrons,
Part 17 – New Directions,
Part 18 – Symbols

Kingdom Building:
Part 1 – Mapping

D&D 5E in Mystara

D&D MenuAdventures, Artefacts, Backgrounds, Classes, Dominions, Downtime, Feats, Gazetteers, Gods, Magical Items, Monsters, Organisations, Pantheons, Races, Ranks & Titles, Rune Magic, Secret Crafts, Settlements, Spells, Timeline, Weapons Mastery

WRATH: Campaign, Design

Game ManagementAnnotated Stat Block, Character Creation, Choosing a New Campaign, Gaming over Skype, GM’s Luck Roll, Tracking Experience

Class Builds
Artificer – Bombardier (Tinkerkin),
Barbarian – Totem Warrior (Plamin, Camdu),
Bard – College of Valour (Sunfey),
Druid – Circle of Dreams (Woodfey), Circle of the Tree of Life (Seasonfey),
Fighter – Battlemaster (Seashire), Eldritch Knight (Kerendan), Weapons Master (Lani), Weapons Master (Stonebound),
Monk – Way of the Elements (Tidal),
Paladin – Oath of Radiance (Sunfey), Oath of Vengeance (Firechild),
Sorcerer – Wild Magic (Shadowfey),
Warlock – Celestial (Llewell),
Wizard – Bladesinger (Nerye),
Dragon – White (Calcryx).
Multiclass – Cleric/Wizard (Xhall), Rogue/Cleric (Dracnomir), Rogue/Sorcerer (Yodrey), Wizard/Rogue (Traladaran)


Session RecordingsCampaign Journals

Library of Books

B5, d20 System, Pathfinder, SW

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By thedarkelf007

I am a long term gamer, I run 6 RPG's a fortnight, host board game, card game and LANs each about once a quarter and have an addiction to buying more games. Games I am currently running are Pathfinder (1st and 2nd Edition) and Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition).

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