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Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia (Basic)
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Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia (Basic)

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Thyatis. An empire run with military precision. An empire wherin fighting prowess is the most highly prized talent of all, and gladiatorial skill can lead to governmental status.

Alphatia. An empire not so much run as allowed to exist by its aristocracy. An empire wherein magic use is the only talent that counts for anything, and lack of it can lead to a life of slavery.

Product History

Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia (1989), by Aaron Allston, is a boxed set connected to the "GAZ" series of Gazetteers for the Known World. It was published in July 1989.

Origins (I): Squaring the Known World. X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981) introduced the Known World with a map that depicted lands from Glantri in the northwest to Ostland in the northeast, from Thyatis in the southeast to the Atruaghin clans in the southwest. These were the boundaries of the Basic D&D setting.

In later years, TSR slightly tightened their focus. By the time they produced GAZ9: "The Minrothad Guilds" (1988), they were now advertising a smaller square of land that only reached westward to Glantri and Ierendi … and this area was quickly filling. When TSR published GAZ12: "The Golden Khan of Ethenghar" (1989) there was only one corner of the square that was still unfilled: Thyatis. (The lands of Alphatia lay even further east.)

Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia reveals those final lands — though remarkably it does so without use of the "GAZ" prefix, despite the Gazetteer logo on the cover. This has disturbed many fans over the years. Some call it "GAZ0", others "GAZ15". Chronologically, it would have been "GAZ12.5".

By detailing the final lands within the square of the Known World, Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia feels like a natural ending point for the "GAZ" series. It was even by Aaron Allston, who'd gotten things started back in GAZ1: "The Grand Duchy of Karameikos" (1987). However, there would be two final hoorahs, with the Gazetteer series first going underground in GAZ13: "The Shadow Elves" (1990) and then detailing that missing peoples from the "Isle of Dread" map in GAZ14: "The Atruaghin Clans" (1991). Meanwhile, other Basic D&D projects proliferated in 1989 and 1990, including the new "PC" (1989-1992) and "DDA" (1990-1991) series. They were likely intended as replacements, as the Gazetteer series sputtered out.

Origins (II): A Campaign Set. When Aaron Allston received the Dawn of the Emperors project, it was called the "Thyatis & Alphatia Campaign Set". This showed the intended scope of the new release: it wasn't going to be just another geographical supplement, but would instead form a foundation for Basic D&D gaming. The supplement eventually picked up a proper name, "Twilight of the Empires", which TSR was advertising in 1988. Both of these early names had disappeared by the time the set was released as Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia.

About the Book. Following the trend of late Gazetteers, Dawn of the Emperors is split between GM and player information. However, it has a much larger scope thanks to its production as a boxed set. It contains a 128-page GM's guide, then a 32-page player's guide for each of Alphatia and Thyatis.

Expanding Basic D&D. As with all of the later Gazetteers, this one expands the Basic D&D rules for character creation. That includes the return of the skill rules (of course) and the introduction of two Thyatis character classes: the forester (an elf for humans) and the rake (a thief for non-thieves). They're both powered down a bit from the base classes, with the forester missing demi-human abilities and the rake missing pick pockets and backstab.

The Thyatis book also contains new rules for flying creatures, an optional system for armor that reduces damage, and some new rules for fighting; the Alphatia book includes new magic user spells and rules for magic item creation; and the DM's Book reprints the Sea Machine warfare system. The Sea Machine rules had originated in M1: "Into the Malestrom" (1985), while the magic item rules are derived from a system in GAZ6: "The Dwarves of Rockhome" (1988).

One system that didn't make it into the rules: a set of "fencing rules for magic-user characters". Allston says that TSR didn't feel that it was appropriate to let magic-users fight with fencing weapons.

Exploring the Known World. Dawn of the Emperors massively expands the Known World by detailing two empires. Allston was instructed to make Thyatis a country that specialized in the concerns of the fighter class, while Alphatia would be a magocracy.

Thyatis had appeared on the edges of the Known World ever since X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981). It had been mentioned in almost every Gazetteer and in some of the Companion adventures, beginning with CM1: "Test of the Warlords" (1984). It was even featured as a point of departure in X8: "Drums on Fire Mountain" (1984). However, it had never taken center stage before this boxed set. Like many countries of the Known World, Thyatis has a real-world analogue: Rome. To be precise, it combines characteristics of the classic Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Byzantine Empire. Thyatis also contains some tongue-in-cheek connections to the British Empire, including an air force called the "Retebius Air Fleet" (RAF).

Alphatia had gotten a bit more attention in previous Known World adventures. That started with the "CM" adventures (1984-1987), most of which were set in Norwold, a land being colonized by Alphatia (in competition with Thyatis). However Alphatia really came center stage in the "M" adventures (1985-1987). M1: "Into the Maelstrom" (1985) revealed that Alphatia, a land of magicians, was itself colonized by people from another world(!). Dawn of the Emperors expanded on this earlier information and also better defined how the empire was different from the Known World's other magocracy, GAZ3: "The Principalities of Glantri" (1987).

Whoops! Each of the player books features a color logo in the background of its pages, a common graphical element of the Gazetteer books. Unfortunately, they're reversed! That's the head of the Thyatis eagle in the Alphatia book and the head of the Alphatia sphinx in the Thyatis book.

Future History. TSR gave a bit of attention to Thyatis in the first two "DDA" adventures, DDA1: "Arena of Thyatis" (1990) and DDA2: "Legions of Thyatis" (1990).

About the Creators. Allston was the master of the Known World in the late '80s, having also authored GAZ1: "The Grand Duchy of Karameikos" (1987) and GAZ6: "The Dwarves of Rockhome" (1988). Next up would be the Hollow World Campaign Set (1990).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Discussions (4)
Customer avatar
Emiliano B May 22, 2018 7:33 am UTC
PURCHASER
Hi, why has the print option disappeared? I was going to buy this.
Customer avatar
Erin S May 23, 2018 1:59 pm UTC
Apparently, there was a printing error on one of the maps and a repeated page. The POD version has been removed until these issues are fixed.
Customer avatar
Michael V May 24, 2018 9:22 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Are we getting new books since we paid for complete ones? I'm really getting tired of every other book having problems, who is running Quality Control?
Customer avatar
Richard R June 06, 2018 8:05 pm UTC
PURCHASER
It's back. :)
Customer avatar
E. S May 21, 2018 9:38 pm UTC
Is it just me, or did POD options suddenly disappear?
Customer avatar
Zia M April 24, 2018 5:24 pm UTC
PURCHASER
All four poster maps have been included for this re-released version, otherwise it looks like the same scan released in 2016, which was of good quality.
Customer avatar
Grover W April 25, 2018 10:46 pm UTC
How are the poster maps scanned in? Just back pages of the book or separate pull outs?
Customer avatar
Zia M May 01, 2018 3:50 pm UTC
PURCHASER
If you are asking about the digital version, it's a separate .zip file with the poster maps as individual .pdf and .jpg files. If you are asking about the print on demand, I don't know.
Customer avatar
March 08, 2016 1:13 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Wish it included the color maps from the original boxed set.
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Product Information
Silver seller
Author(s)
Pages
185
Edition
1.0
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TSR 1037
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on April 24, 2018.