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Any ideas on a Conan-esque Sword and Sorcery setting?


assault
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While I don't usually do Fantasy Hero, I've developed an urge to design a Conan-style Sword and Sorcery setting.

 

The most notable thing about Conan's stories (the Howard ones, at least) is that they are basically "historical" fiction with fantasy trappings. So I'm putting together a list of historical settings to rip off.

 

 I'm looking for suggestions to add to the list, although with a twist.

 

I'm not going to initially share the list I have already have. My idea is to see what other people think of as interesting settings.

 

 

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I've always thought Classical Greece was underutilized as a setting.

 

Not an empire or great kingdoms, but many relatively small city states. A common language and a degree of common culture, but the laws, form of government, customs, and mythology can change if you so much as cross a river from one city state to the next.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

A palindromedary is honored in one city, but across those hills will be regarded with suspicion....

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46 minutes ago, assault said:

I've developed an urge to design a Conan-style Sword and Sorcery setting.

 

Lin Carter's Thongor's world is another sword and sorcery setting that I enjoyed. 

 

Also the Callisto series and the Gondwane Epic are also great ones.  More Sword and Planet than Sword and Sorcery, but definitely workable. 

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I'm currently running a Hyborian Hero campaign.  This site has been invaluable for player and GM information:

https://hyboria.xoth.net/index.htm

 

This is the campaign map I have imported into Roll20:

https://i.redd.it/bdwr792mcva21.jpg

 

I uploaded a Hero Designer Prefab for Hyborian Age Currency:

https://www.herogames.com/files/file/316-fh-hyborian-currency/

 

Hope these links help you as much as they've helped me.

 

 

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54 minutes ago, C-Note said:

I'm currently running a Hyborian Hero campaign.  This site has been invaluable for player and GM information:

https://hyboria.xoth.net/index.htm

 

This is the campaign map I have imported into Roll20:

https://i.redd.it/bdwr792mcva21.jpg

 

I uploaded a Hero Designer Prefab for Hyborian Age Currency:

https://www.herogames.com/files/file/316-fh-hyborian-currency/

 

Hope these links help you as much as they've helped me.

 

 

The Modiphious Conan game has some great books.  They have done a phenomenal job of verifying their books follow Howards actual writings, no comics, no movie, etc.

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Any familiarity with or interest in Hero's The Valdorian Age? It was intended to be just that kind of setting, as you can tell from the cover:

 

9781583660416-uk.jpg

 

The Hero Games website used to host a free "Valdorian Age Player Primer," a short RTF outlining what most characters in VA know about their world. I'll Attach it to this post. Also, our forum colleague bluesguy collected all the maps from the book in JPEG form, which are in the Freebies section of the current website: https://www.herogames.com/files/file/35-valdorian-age-maps/

 

vapp.rtf

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40 minutes ago, Lord Liaden said:

The Hero Games website used to host a free "Valdorian Age Player Primer," a short RTF outlining what most characters in VA know about their world. I'll Attach it to this post. Also, our forum colleague bluesguy collected all the maps from the book in JPEG form, which are in the Freebies section of the current website: https://www.herogames.com/files/file/35-valdorian-age-maps/

 

Awesome stuff there.  Not to mention it is awesome stuff I did not have :nonp:

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1 hour ago, Lord Liaden said:

Any familiarity with or interest in Hero's The Valdorian Age? It was intended to be just that kind of setting, as you can tell from the cover:

 

Got it, but it doesn't leap out as being particularly useful. Its feel is "wrong" - neither Howard, Burroughs nor even Lin Carter.

 

I'm looking at stuff more like 3e's Lands of Mystery (for Justice Inc.)

 

Pulp adventure with swords rather than guns.

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I'm pretty well up on the source material, although other people reading this thread might not be.

 

I'm aiming for something of a Hyboria-style patchwork world, where you can point at bits of it and say "Here Be Pirates", "there's the City of Thieves" and "Jungle Adventures Here".

 

What I'm trying to do is decide which patches to use, and particularly which ones to concentrate on. I was hoping that people would say things like "You have to have Pirates! Pirates are cool!", which would suggest that players might respond well to pirates.

 

I'm well aware that there are a bunch of patchwork fantasy maps online, but none of them are mine.

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2 minutes ago, assault said:

What I'm trying to do is decide which patches to use, and particularly which ones to concentrate on. I was hoping that people would say things like "You have to have Pirates! Pirates are cool!", which would suggest that players might respond well to pirates.

 

Well, the whole "genre" (subject, insert descriptor of choice) is very very very wide. 

It would be helpful to get a better idea of what you are looking for.  Actual Sword & Sorcery or Sword & Planet. 

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1 hour ago, assault said:

 

Got it, but it doesn't leap out as being particularly useful. Its feel is "wrong" - neither Howard, Burroughs nor even Lin Carter.

 

I'm looking at stuff more like 3e's Lands of Mystery (for Justice Inc.)

 

Pulp adventure with swords rather than guns.

 

Ah, okay. In that case, Steve Long's Inner-Earth might be right up your alley:

 

 

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30 minutes ago, Spence said:

 

Well, the whole "genre" (subject, insert descriptor of choice) is very very very wide. 

It would be helpful to get a better idea of what you are looking for.  Actual Sword & Sorcery or Sword & Planet. 

 

Actual Sword & Sorcery.

 

Sword & Planet stuff is useful on one side of the equation, obviously. I know how I will be handling the Sorcery too.

 

By "Actual Sword & Sorcery" I mean Pulp Fantasy. Stories that could be rewritten as (lurid and not particularly realistic) historical fiction - and vice versa.

 

Westerns. The Last of the Mohicans. Beau Geste. King Solomon's Mines. That kind of stuff. Not specific works, but settings capable of supporting versions of these stories, with swords and the occasional wizard or monster.

 

Actually, it's obvious that people don't get what I want. I'll just have to decide "what is cool" without feedback.

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Assault I think you’ve asked a good question. Ive thought at one time or another about Sword and Sorcery. I know for myself though trying to write down what makes S&S seems to be harder than it should be. One thing I think though is that even though there are countries, there seems to be open borders.  People of all Races and countries seem to mingle in all countries. Armor is no more advanced than Chest Plate i believe. Humanity drug itself from the brink because of catastrophes. There are some hints of an older world with some of the last of the prehistoric animals. Also mankind can (And has) degenerated. Also all the old world myths are true to an extent. 

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Interesting. I was just at Robert E Howard Days in Crossplains, Texas. They had a panel on the topic of what exactly counts as sword and sorcery, what aspects it must have, and which of Howard's creations is the actual birth of the genre.

 

If you're looking for historical parallel for inspiration, there is of course the Roman empire. If you set your world with an empire in decline you can easily throw in pirates, proto-vikings, barbarians, the Roman based proto-knights in England,  ancient Egyptian civilization to the south, with jungle adventure even further south (or head east into Persia and India).

 

Shrink the distances down a little. Take a lot of literary license. There's a lot to mine there.

 

I've also always been interested in working out a game based on Xenophon's recounting of the march of an army of Greek soldiers caught deep in enemy territory. Would be a hardcore fight, some politicking, and a little bit of resource management. Sounds ripe for a gritty sword and sorcery style game. Just replace the army with the player group.

 

Short version:

https://m.warhistoryonline.com/featured/behind-enemy-lines-march-10000-greek-hoplites.html

 

Read it yourself:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1170

 

Or watch The Warriors, I think it's loosely based on the story and is an entertaining watch either way.

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14 hours ago, assault said:

Actually, it's obvious that people don't get what I want. I'll just have to decide "what is cool" without feedback.

 

Honestly, my friend, the phrasing of your initial post was a bit misleading on that front. ;)  Now that you've clarified what you want, it would be counterproductive to just give up.

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theinfin* mentioned the Roman Empire; I'll narrow it down to the Byzantine Empire as a model. Here's why it's cool for S&S:

 

You've got a civilization that can act as the clear center and focus of the setting. No matter how far the PCs travel, there's some connection (explicit, implicit or historical) to The Fading Empire and The Great City that is its capital and crossroads of the world.

 

The Great City is a magnet that draws people from all lands. This gives the widest possible range of PC backgrounds. You've got barbarians (several kinds press on the Fading Empire from several directions) who are at once attracted by the Empire's opulence and disgusted by its decadence and corruption. You've got scions of ancient lineages, who seek to live by ancient virtues now scorned. You've got ambitious commoners. Military veterans. Etc.

 

I mentioned decadence and corruption. The courtiers and the high bureaucracy supply this in spades. They make excellent villains: cunning, treacherous and effete. They are as great a threat to the Fading Empire as its foreign foes as they squander its resources in their internal contests for power. But they are also potential patrons for bold killers and thieves.

 

Similarly, the Fading Empire has the best troops in the world -- but they're too damn expensive to use them lightly, and there's just too many threats to deploy them everywhere they're needed. This gives incentives for Imperial officials to employ, ah, freelance problem-solvers. Though if you become too successful at solving problems for the Empire, leaders start seeing you as a potential threat. Cue the betrayal, which can initiate a new story arc in which the PCs become one of the problems themselves.

 

That's not even getting into the potential supernatural side, which could range from quasi-Neoplatonic mystics to Classical necromancy to real, no kidding saints.

 

Enough to get you started? The sort of suggestion you were looking for?

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The lost city is a staple of pulp fiction as well as S&S, but the jungle-swamped ruin is a bit overdone. Here are a couple of alternative examples, both discovered in the 20th Century.

 

Derinkuyu in Turkey, a multi-level underground urban complex capable of housing up to 20,000 people, with their livestock and food supplies.

 

Machu Picchu in Peru, a pre-Columbian citadel built atop a high peak in the Andes Mountains, never found by the Spanish conquistadores.

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Very low magic in Conan stories, unless its bad guys.  There is some cure magic (remove curse mostly) and the ability to heal with herbs.  Mages are mostly crazy people who see visions, collect weird old stuff and end badly.  Weapons and armor are not as good as you generally get from fantasy campaigns, should be mostly bronze with rare iron.  If you use the Conan setting, then ancient civilizations will have better gear, but its rare and hard to get.

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I’m not sure about some of the other writers but with R.E.H. strength is king. One should look at the options for block, I think the one where the blocker can still take some damage and weapons being broken too. How many people “blocked” Conan and he just sheared through the sword or shield to still cut down the enemy?

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