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The Horde (2e)

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Between East and West, between Earth and Sky, lies the Endless Waste. Barren and desolate, this windswept land forms the barrier between the feuding kingdoms of Faerun and the ancient empires of Kara-Tur. The eternal steppe is home only to the hardy, nomadic horsemen who travel its secret paths.

This region, long ignored by its neighbors, is about to erupt in the bloodiest conflict ever to sweep across the Forgotten Realms. Yamun Khahan, Emperor of the Tuigan, has united the barbarian tribes into an unstoppable horde. Already he rules the steppes, from the Cave of a Thousand Gods to the Valley of the Dog-Men. Driven to conquer, Yamun Khahan looks both east and west, and sees a world ripe for the harvest.

Product History

The Horde Barbarian Campaign Setting (1990), by David "Zeb" Cook, is the setting supplement for the Hordelands. It was released in August 1990.

About the Cover. The Horde Barbarian Campaign Setting (1990) shares a cover with Horselords (1990), the first novel in the Empires trilogy, which told the story of the Horde attacking nearby lands.

Origins (I): The Center of the Storm. The story of the Horde consumed the Forgotten Realms line in 1990, from the debut of the storyline with the first novel Horselords and adventure FRA1: "Storm Riders" (1990) in April to its conclusion in December with the final novel, Crusade (1990). The Horde is the center of that storm, detailing the peoples of the Horde and their lands.

Origins (II): A New Campaign Set. The Horde labels itself a "campaign setting", which put it right in line with the three boxed sets for the Realms that had preceded it, all during the AD&D 1e era: Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (1987), City System (1988), and Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (1988). It's a very close match for Forgotten Realms and Kara-Tur, consisting of a description of the peoples of the land, then an encyclopedia of its realms, all in a relatively system neutral manner. In fact, The Horde is more than just a match for the two previous campaign settings: it's the missing link between the western and eastern Realms, sitting square in the middle of these two known lands.

Expanding D&D. The advent of AD&D 2e (1989) hadn't changed a core tenant of AD&D settings: they still weren't very crunchy. Despite its extensive description of the cultures of the Hordelands, The Horde contains no special rules for creating characters from the land; in fact, it largely presumes that characters will be newcomers to the Hordelands, not natives.

Contemporary releases like Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990) were stretching the rule system of D&D a little more, but it would take a few more years (and a few more settings) for TSR to realize the power of their new character kits for making their settings more evocative and concrete.

Metaplotting Along. The fact that The Horde was part of the Empires metaplot makes it one of the most short-lived settings ever. The Horde describes a unified Hordelands ruled by Yamun Khahan and neither of those facts would be true by the time by metaplot ended just four months later.

Exploring the Realms: The Hordelands. The Horde follows Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms as the second huge expansion for the Forgotten Realms covering the entirety of the Endless Waste in two big poster maps (and one big Encyclopedia). Known lands such as the Raurin desert and Thay may be found in the west of the map while Shou Lung appears to the east. The Hordelands are everything in between. The city of Dhaztanar also gets a poster map, while Almorel gets a smaller cardstock map. Add in the deep cultural information and the Hordelands becomes one of the best-defined places in all of the Realms.

Obviously, the Hordelands are a Mongolian-influenced fantasy culture, the second that TSR had produced, following GAZ12: "The Golden Khan of Ethengar" (1989) for the Known World.

Blowing Up the Canon: Kara-Tur. Kara-Tur had one large problem: it was too big. This required resolution now that The Horde was linking Kara-Tar to the western Realms. Cook explains, saying "Because of the immense distances involved in Kara-Tur, the overall size of Kara-Tur has been reduced by one-third to improve play. The 90-mile scale maps provided in the Kara-Tur set should be revised to 60 miles to the inch. The 30-mile scale maps are reduced to 20 miles to the inch. On the plastic grid, one small hex equals 12 miles on the larger maps and 4 miles on the smaller maps."

Blowing Up the Canon: The Grinning Skull Oasis. Meanwhile, The Horde also revealed a pretty small problem. With several people simultaneously working on the Realms, it was easy to create conflicts. Thus FR10: "Old Empires" (1990) and The Horde both talk about the Grinning Skull Oasis … but it's different in each.

Monsters of Note. Six new monsters entries appear in The Horde, including a few "greater spirits" of the steppes. Of the six, the new horses were the only ones popular enough to ever appear again.

Four other creatures got cut, and instead appear as "A Hoard for The Horde" in Dragon #163 (November 1990). Curiously, these rejected monsters would be much better received: the three-headed dzalmaus dragon returned in Dragon #349 (November 2006) as part of an update on "The Horde: Barbarians of the Endless Waste", while the manni, the morin, and the sand cat all returned for MC11: "Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix" (1991).

About the Creators. Cook was TSR's master of the East. He was the author of Oriental Adventures (1985), which first detailed Kara-Tur, and now he was detailing the Hordelands just to the west.

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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File Last Updated:
July 23, 2017
This title was added to our catalog on July 24, 2017.