The Known World as it's never been known before!
This fourth yearly edition is different from the previous Poor Wizard's Almanacs. This updated volume, assembled by new publisher Joshuan Gallidox, includes more information useful to travelers, more maps of well-known (and some not so well-known) places, "Spotlight On" segments focusing on fascinating locations, plus special "You Are There" reports from Joshuan's correspondents.
"The Year in Review," covering the year AC 1013, and a special section of "Predictions and Prognostications" round out the most entertaining and practical Almanac yet produced. Don't miss this chance to get the inside information (along with extensive editorial commentary) on the Known World!
Joshuan's Almanac & Book of Facts (1995), by Ann Dupuis and Elizabeth Tornabene, is the fourth Almanac for the world of Mystara. It was published in November 1995.
Origins (I): A New Almanac. Following the publication of AC1010: Poor Wizard's Alamanac & Book of Facts (1992), AC1011: Poor Wizard's ALamanac II & Book of Facts (1993), and Poor Wizard's Alamanac III & Book of Facts (1994), TSR was planning for their fourth annual Msytaran Almanac in 1995, once more updating the status of the world.
However, TSR had gotten negative feedback that the Almanacs to date were dry and repetitive, often rehashing the same geographical and who's who information from year-to-year. Meanwhile, Ann Dupuis was receiving positive feedback on the micro-fiction that she included in PC4: "Night Howlers" (1992). So, she pitched a format change to Mystaran line developer Bruce Heard: she wanted to include more micro-fiction and generally recreate the Alamanacs as more colorful pieces of in-game fiction rather than omnipotent overviews. This was already a proven writing style at TSR, used on the Aurora's Whole Realms Catalog (1992) and the Volo Guides (1992-2000); Heard agree to adopt it here as well.
Dupuis says the change made the book more fun to write. There were also other consequences. For one, the new style made the Almanacs more like players books and less like GMs book. You could no longer count on the Almanacs for insight into the secrets of Mystara, but you could hand them to a player without worrying about giving too much away.
Meanwhile, the scope of Mystara shrank in this fourth Almanac. The third Almanac has been expanding to areas like the southern continent of Davania and the Hollow World, but Joshuan's Almanac instead pulls back to focus on the traditional area of the Known World. Despite that, there were indeed less repeats, but that's largely due to the new in-character write-ups of the various lands.
Origins (II): The End of Mystara. Joshuan's Almanac is, to a large extent, the end of the Known World. At least, it's the final roleplaying product for the line to be released to the mass market. The Basic D&D line had already fizzled out in 1993. Now, despite solid support from 1994-1995, the new AD&D Mystara line was coming to an end too. It just couldn't keep up with the Forgotten Realms, and it couldn't distinguish itself among TSR's more outré settings of the '90s.
Bruce Heard officially announced the end of Mystara on October 4, 1995 on the TSR AOL boards. He said it was going on "hiatus" at the time, but it soon became obvious that was a euphemism. Six final releases appeared in 1996, none of which quite meet the "mass-market RPG" criteria. There were two novels, Dragonmage of Mystara (1996) and The Black Vessel (1996), which both appeared in August, and were probably preserved by dint of the longer publishing cycle for fiction. A final licensed product also appeared: a Capcom arcade game called Dungeons & Dragons: Shadows over Mystara; it's since been released, along with its predecessor, Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (1993), in a computer game compilation called Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara (2013) — an extremely rare modern-day product bearing the Mystara brand.
However, TSR did have a few final roleplaying products ready to go. At first they were going to be "Mystara" books, then they were going to be "Odyssey" books, and finally they were released as free downloads on the TSR web site. These three books revised and expanded the Red Steel Campaign Setting (1994). They were "Savage Coast Campaign Set" (1996), "Orc’s Head" (1996), and "Savage Cost Monstrous Compendium Appendix" (1996).
Mystara: February 1981-August 1996.
Today, Mystara is supported by its fans, especially at the Vaults of Pandius (pandius.com), the website that was chosen by Wizards of the Coast as the official site for Mystara. However, that support is very extensive, including computerized maps, Almanacs for 1014-1019, a series of latter-day Gazetteers (2006-2008), and a Mystaran magazine called Threshold (2013-Present).
Metaplotting Along. Joshuan's Almanac contains Mystara's metaplot events for 1013 … but there really aren't many of note. Metaplotting has become much smaller scale with this volume. There's a Heldannic Inquisition, a Karameikos grand tour, Mirros World Games, Norwold earthquakes, a Sea of Dread hurricane, and a lot of stuff that's even more minor (but potentially offers good adventure seeds).
Exploring Mystara. Articles appear on most of the classic Known World countries and Norwold, plus a few lesser-known places such as Heldann, Sind, and Wendar. However, the nicest details in this Almanac probably come from an extensive timeline that compiles dates from the entire Gazetteer series.
Blowing Up Canon. There's one rather surprising claim in Joshuan's Almanac. In a section called "History of a Hoax", Joshuan states that the Hollow World doesn't exist. Purchasers of TSR's Hollow World Campaign Set (1990) might disagree.
Now obviously this can be disregarded as canon, since all of the writings of Joshuan's Almanac are in-character. In fact, some of the other writings in the Almanac still suggest the existence of a Hollow World. But you still must ask, why TSR would include such an article? It's been reported that Bruce Heard says it was to give GMs who didn't like the Hollow World a way to disregard it in their own campaigns.
NPCs of Note. The hin Joshuan makes his full appearance here, after being introduced in Dragon #206 (June 1994) and Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure (1994).
About the Creators. Ann Dupuis continued her work on the Almanacs in this final volume. This was Elizabeth Tornabene's only D&D writing.
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 email@example.com.