With a new year comes a new direction for the old blog! Starting this month, Darva and I will be bringing you, our readers, batches of themed articles to expand your Classic D&D Mystara game. Our hope is that a changing monthly theme will help hold interest, ours as well as yours, and promote a more regular flow of material.
To start off 2013, we've selected the Hin, Mystara's halflings, to be the first topic. All "hin-uary" long, we'll explore the Hin, the Five Shires they call home, and related rules and ideas.
To get things moving, I'd like to briefly review our major sources for material and ideas you'll find featured this month:
Dungeons & Dragons Gazetteer #8: The Five Shires
A no brainer starting point for any examination of the Five Shires and their Hin inhabitants. Written by the master of story-telling focused D&D design, Ed Greenwood, this book is excellent in its establishment of a real feel for the culture and day to day lifestyles of the Shirefolk, without getting too bogged down in rules or boring trivia.
Dungeons & Dragons Gazetteer #1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos
Since the Shirefolk's eastern neighbor, Karameikos, plays a large part in their politics and history, this sourcebook is another important resource. Also, the conflict between the Hin of the Shires and the Black Eagle Barony shapes much of the current events in the eastern realms of the Shires, and that vile land is described in this book.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
These novels, and the related films, books, RPGs and websites based on the work of JRR Tolkien are, despite some of TSR's early claims, the basis of Hin/Halflings in the D&D game mythos to most players. While studying and developing material based on the Hin, you really can't go wrong looking back at Professor Tolkien's original writings, with The Hobbit and the various appendices in The Lord of the Rings being foremost in usefulness.
Middle Earth Roleplaying: Lords of Middle Earth, volume 3: Hobbits, Dwarves, Ents, Orcs & Trolls (by Iron Crown Enterprises)
I mentioned Middle Earth inspired RPGs above, but this book in particular is a great resource for exploring the culture, personalities and role-playing aspects of the Hin, who are, winkwinknodnod, just Hobbits with the serial numbers filed off. Ed Greenwood did a great job of making the Five Shires stand apart as more than just a generic clone of Professor Tolkien's Shire, but the foundation remains.
A few other works worth looking at for inspiration:
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition): The Complete Book of Gnomes & Halflings
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition): Forgotten Realms: Demihuman Deities
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition): Forgotten Realms: Demihumans of the Realms
The Advanced Race Codex: Halflings (D20 supplement for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, by Green Ronin Publishing)
Pathfinder RPG: Player Companion: Halflings of Golarion (by Paizo Publishing)
Heroes of High Favor: Halflings (D20 supplement for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, by Badaxe Games)
Furthermore, since Ed Greenwood introduced a maritime, swashbuckling element to Hin culture in the Five Shires, any gaming supplements dealing with pirates and seafaring adventures will be useful in developing that side of things.
One last note, regarding the use of material from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. This may seem odd and even off-putting to some Mystara fans, but consider that the primary author of Mystara "canon" on the Hin is Ed Greenwood, the father of the Forgotten Realms setting. It is also worth mentioning that the Halflings of that setting managed to avoid the development bloat and power-creep that slipped into a lot of the rest of the setting material, so adapting things into the Mystara setting isn't all that challenging.
So, what about you? What sources of inspiration do you use to expand on Mystara's Hin material? Are there any resources that I've missed that demand review? Let us know in the comments, our goal is to make our material here as interesting and useful to you as it is enjoyable for us to create.