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Friday, January 28, 2022

Piazza Thread: Original Known World Campaign Documents

Sample Page from the Original Known World documents - "Origins of Characters".
Note the extensive list of non-human races available for play including
Felis Sapiens, Toad-Men, Balrogs, Protein Polymorphs and Tharks...!

Over on the Piazza, a great forum dedicated to the various and sundry D&D settings, member TraverseTravis has posted scans of a sheaf of documents from the Original Known World D&D campaign of Lawrence Schick and the late Tom Moldvay before they started working for TSR. This is the original material which Moldvay and others drew on for developing the published Known World campaign setting - later Mystara - as it initially appears in the 1981 D&D Expert Rulebook and the module X1 Isle of Dread

Portions of this material surfaced back in 2015, which I described in post on this blog called "Ur-Known World"; from there you can find a link to an interview with Schick on Black Gate.

The new set of documents was saved by one of the original members of the group, Bill Wilkerson (thanked as a playtester in Moldvay's module B4 The Lost City), who provided them to TraverseTravis for scanning. Shannon Appecline compiled the scans into a single document organized by subject according to OD&D Vol I-III.

Find links for downloading them in the first post here:

Bill Wilkerson's Original Known World documents

I've been contributing to the Piazza thread with comments on how the "New Monsters" from the Original Known World were later used by Moldvay and Schick in various TSR publications such as the Fiend Folio, X1 Isle of Dread and X2 Castle Amber.

A big thanks to TraverseTravis and Shannon Appelcline for their efforts in making this material available to the public!


  1. Saw this the other day. What an amazing trove of documents. In a way this strikes me as almost an entirely separate game based on D&D, like Empire of the Petal Throne. Even more amazing is that some of the material here was still being used as the basis for Mystara Gazetteers through 1991!

  2. Not sure if it came up in the thread, but several of the new monsters were cribbed from Chaosium's All the World's Monsters (1977), specifically the Blast Puppy (created by Steve Perrin), the Daughter of Kali (Mark Swanson), and the Tar Golem (Hilda Hannifen), all of which are direct lifts (the Tar Golem and Daughter of Kali descriptions are even clipped from the actual ATWM book (the all-caps font is instantly recognizable).

    In addition, two other monsters -- the Grind Stone and the Air Shark -- are clearly adapted from the ATWM entries, both created by Dave Hargrave.

    1. ...And I just read for myself in the thread that you already made that connection! :)

    2. I hadn't noted that the Blast Puppy is from ATWM or that the Grind Stone is from Arduin. Thanks!

    3. The Grind Stone appears in ATWM under the heading "War Wheel", but cross-referenced in the index as "Grind Stone". In the description, the first sentence describing the dimensions begins with the same words as the Original Known World description.

    4. My DM in the early 80s had all three volumes of ATWM, so our party encountered many of these insane creatures. All of the ones listed in OKW are from Vol. 1 except the Air Shark which is from Vol. 2. I believe the publication of Vol. 1 predates publication of the AD&D Monster Manual, making it the first RPG bestiary? It's incredible to see the amount of cross-pollination for these books, and many of the monsters were created by gaming legends. In addition to Steve Perrin and Dave Hargrave, early luminaries such as Paul Jaquays, Jim Ward, and Lee Gold contributed quite a few beasties.

  3. A truly remarkable set of documents, and so grateful that they have been posted and freely shared!

  4. Indeed it is an awesome discovery. Any theories on the origins of the Mercurial? Or what they are supposed to be?

  5. Added some details to the thread about the other mss. I have from Tom.