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4/18/2014 7:44 am  #41


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

That's pretty much how mine plays out. It also tends to mean that when some poor idiot who actually does care about what happens to people (a bailiff or town hetman or stupidly benevolent king) needs someone to tackle something dangerous and necessary, s/he ends up turning to the PCs because everyone else is even less trustworthy.

 

4/18/2014 7:47 am  #42


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

Chainsaw wrote:

Yora wrote:

What do you consider elements that are important in making a game setting feel like Sword & Sorcery?

- Ultimately, most PCs are primarily concerned with The Big Score - not being do-gooders and righting the social, political, economic and religious wrongs of the world. They're not bad guys at heart or anything, but they don't really conceptualize these things as a modern man and, even if the did, they are not naive about what they can accomplish (see cycle of corrupt rulers, above).

I agree completely.  I don't believe Sword and Sorcery means you are now playing a campaign with evil PC's.  They are probably neutral-greedy in most cases with a dash of hero.  Interest is inward because the world's threats are too many and too pervasive to do anything about.
 


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
 

4/18/2014 8:27 am  #43


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

finarvyn wrote:

Just wanted to chime in to say that the lists of Yora & Chainsaw earlier in this thread are awesome and really capture the feel of S&S. I's gonna copy-paste the list so I can keep a copy handy for my next campaign.

I like your contribution too, Odysseus, but only in the "good old days" of my gaming life. Back in high school we thoughts wenches were awesome, but now that I play a more family-oriented G-rated game (with wife and kids) the focus seems to have drifted away from wenches. Go figure. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/cute.png

This reminds me of a game I played with my kids months ago. Their characters walked into a bar.

Barkeep says, "What would you like?"
"Milk," says my son. 
"One goat's milk, coming up," said the man. "And you, young lady?"
My daughter replied, "Blue Gatorade."
 


Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea - A Role-Playing Game of Swords, Sorcery, and Weird Fantasy
 

4/18/2014 8:28 pm  #44


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

finarvyn wrote:

Just wanted to chime in to say that the lists of Yora & Chainsaw earlier in this thread are awesome and really capture the feel of S&S. I's gonna copy-paste the list so I can keep a copy handy for my next campaign.

Cool, glad you found it useful.

 


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

4/20/2014 2:52 am  #45


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

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4/20/2014 11:55 am  #46


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

finarvyn wrote:

I like your contribution too, Odysseus, but only in the "good old days" of my gaming life. Back in high school we thoughts wenches were awesome, but now that I play a more family-oriented G-rated game (with wife and kids) the focus seems to have drifted away from wenches. Go figure. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/cute.png

I know, mine too even though I'm not especially family oriented. It's just that S&S really doesn't shy away from such things compared to tolkien-ish fantasy. 
Having a kid now and looking forward playing with him, I'd be really glad if you could give me some nice G-rated S&S references. At the moment, I can't imagine anything that would be PG-13 because of the booze, violence, flirting, horrors and, overall, the nihilistic setting.
 

 

4/20/2014 3:26 pm  #47


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

Odysseus wrote:

finarvyn wrote:

I like your contribution too, Odysseus, but only in the "good old days" of my gaming life. Back in high school we thoughts wenches were awesome, but now that I play a more family-oriented G-rated game (with wife and kids) the focus seems to have drifted away from wenches. Go figure. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/cute.png

I know, mine too even though I'm not especially family oriented. It's just that S&S really doesn't shy away from such things compared to tolkien-ish fantasy. 
Having a kid now and looking forward playing with him, I'd be really glad if you could give me some nice G-rated S&S references. At the moment, I can't imagine anything that would be PG-13 because of the booze, violence, flirting, horrors and, overall, the nihilistic setting.
 

I started my son (8) and two friends' daughters (10 & 11) in my AS&SH game set in Atlantis, and it's possible to do S&S with kids: I've carefully selected creatures to be obviously inimical (beast men, serpent men, undead) and just kept the PG-13 stuff out. When it's just the dads then sleeping with fishfolk while under the charm of Dagon might have happened. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/devious.png


"My own concepts in this regard are easy and clear, and I am sure that the word 'simplistic' will be used by my critics. These folk are callow and turgid of intellect; I am reassured by their howls and yelps."
Jack Vance, The Face
 

4/21/2014 4:35 am  #48


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

As I've kept thinking about it, I wonder if He-Man, Conan (and the Young Warriors) and Xena wouldn't be some good inspirations. 

Last edited by Odysseus (4/21/2014 4:37 am)

 

4/21/2014 5:45 am  #49


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

Odysseus wrote:

As I've kept thinking about it, I wonder if He-Man, Conan (and the Young Warriors) and Xena wouldn't be some good inspirations. 

I think they would be, although both Hercules and Xena sometimes found themselves in situations which were more adult than you might expect. On the other hand, both of those shows were tame enough to be shown on regular TV so I don't see a problem with them. Heck, if you watch Disney animations they have several layers of stuff in them -- some things that kids get and another layer for the parents.

You mentioned Atlantis -- recall that there is a Disney movie about that which could be fun. John Carter is a fun action show without any real adult themes. Frozen was good. Treasure Planet has neat flying ships. Disney also did Hercules and Alladin and I'm sure others that kids would love. Remember that often the hope is to inspire creativity in the kids, not to have them role-play an actual setting.


Marv / Finarvyn
DCC playtester (2011), S&W WhiteBox Author (2009), C&C playtester (2003), Metamorphosis Alpha since 1976. OD&D Player since 1975
 

4/21/2014 2:59 pm  #50


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

Thanks for those references, the last Disney I saw was Alladin at its theatre release. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/happy.png

 

 

5/05/2014 3:15 pm  #51


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

I got an idea for my next adventure, and while the potential is there, I think it needs some swords & sorcery special sauce.
One of the PCs is a cleric who was trained by a shaman hermit in the hills and now has come down to the valley to work with the local shrine. A messenger from the next village arrives, bringing news that one of their people wanted to see the hermit, but saw his house ransacked without any trace of him. The PCs travel to the house in the hills, where they see some bandits looting the place. The bandits trail leads to an old abandoned mine, where the gang is forcing some slaves and an ogre to dig for a hidden treasure. Once the slaves are freed, the PCs learn that they were part of a larger group that was captured, and loaned to the bandits for a share of the treasure.
One of the slavers stayed in the mine, but is very likely to escape and try to get back to his companions after the bandits are destroyed. The other slavers have already left their camp and started to bring their new slaves to their village in the savage great marshes. The PCs can try to catch up with them before they reach the village full of marsh barbarians, having to deal with the marshes and ambushes set by the slavers. The hermit wasn't actually captured, but out in the forest when his house was looted and went after the slavers so that someone would be able to tell others where the slaves had been taken to. The PCs should catch up with him at some point.
The barbarians are lead by a group of albinos of an ancient magical heiritage, whose leader is a witch revered by the barbarians as a demigod. If the PCs did not catch the slave raiders before they reached the village, they somehow have to break the slaves out. Sneaking in and killing the witch might be a good way to get the barbarians to cooperate.

There's lots of classic elements there: Slaves, an underground ruin, barbarians in the marshes, evil descendants of Atlantis, and and evil sorceress. But unlike myself, my players are not big Sword & Sorcery fans (out of ignorance, not dislike), so I want to show them what it really means and this isn't Middle Earth or Faerûn. Any ideas to spice this up?
 


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
     Thread Starter
 

5/05/2014 4:12 pm  #52


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

I like it already and as another newbie to S&S I think you did a great job spinkling some elements in. I would not mistake this for Middle Earth or Faerun now. 

The only thing for me is once they get the hermit back beyond being heroes what compels them to go after the slaves.  Were the slaves of the village the cleric now is working in?  If not there should be a connection to the slave group that would cause the typically mercenary heroes to go after them!
Maybe the Hermit caught a glimpse of the albinos and describes the gem encrusted circlets they where or some such.  Just a thought.
 


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
 

5/05/2014 5:23 pm  #53


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

Good idea. Some people the PCs know went missing, and the slave raiders might be a trail to find them. And I think the albinos probably should get some emphasis on being malicious. They are not quite human after all.
Some nasty beast that stalks the empty mines and can be used as a trap for the bandits should also add some points for style.

I got the idea from combining The Disappearance of Harold the Hedge Mage on Dragonsfoot and Raiders of the Black Ice from Dungeon, and simply switching out some elements for things that already exist in my setting. Like the tundra becoming the marsh, the frostfolk becoming air genasi, and the goblins marsh people.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
     Thread Starter
 

5/07/2014 2:06 pm  #54


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

I've read this article a week or two ago, and while planning my next adventure, it got me thinking about it again.
The main point that is argued is, that a campaign setting has the function of motivating the players to adopt certain types of behavior. To act in accordance to the genre, that the setting is meant to recreate.
We've been talking here about how the GM can make the setting look like Sword & Sorcery, but these last days I realized that this does not really get the players to think and act like those heroes.

The important question, that we might have been missing so far, is how we think a Sword & Sorcery hero should act and behave. That is not to say what actions the PCs will take and what decisions they make, but to get the players into the mindset that is appropriate for the campaign.

What do you think defines a Sword & Sorcery hero? Only once the GM has made up his mind about it, can he really start to encourage such behaviors.

- I would say one very important thing is, that they are the people who do the things that everyone already knows need to be done, but nobody else has the guts to do. Then the heroes curse at the peasants and their cowardice, maybe punch one of them in the head, and then set out to do it anyway. (If people ask for the heroes to help them and can't offer a seriously good payment, portray them as cowards and pathetic, though that's only a start.)
- Also, they don't sacrifice themselves. They are willing to put themselves into considerable danger, but only for as long as they still think they can pull it off and still get away alive. When they do get captured or killed, then it's because they miscalculated, not because it was considered a worthy price to pay. Heroes know when to fold 'em, and when things seem hopeless, they do turn around and run. (Establish early and enforce consistently, that heroes won't be miraculously saved if they take on a clearly overwhelming enemy, and their death would not save their friend anyway.)
- Related to that, if they are unable to save someone, they will run. But they will be back. And then their revenge will be terrible. (I think a good amount of promised XP should be a great motivator, even if there isn't logically anything to gain).
- Heroes are often motivated to go after villains who personally wronged them. (Hit them where it hurts, take away whatever nonmonetary things they prize. Even if it's just burning down their favorite tavern instead of an unremarkable farm at the towns edge.)

Some further reading: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2010/07/mind_meld_what_sword_and_sorcery_means_to_me/

Last edited by Yora (5/07/2014 2:29 pm)


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
     Thread Starter
 

5/08/2014 8:12 am  #55


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

So here's a thought I had this morning.

We keep talking about the "heroes," which makes sense since most of us have players to motivate so they can find all the cool ways to die we've painstakingly crafted for them. But maybe part of what makes for (A)S&S(H) is really the motivation of the villains.

It seems (and this is mostly from reading around on Dragonsfoot; my games never really went this way) that high-fantasy and many D&D games involve huge, universe- (or multiverse)-at-stake plots. The villains are the gods of evil, not an upjumped bandit leader. The stakes are existence itself and the balance of the cosmos. Not all the time, obviously, but it's certainly a trope.

This exists in some traditional S&S stuff (Moorcock especially, though maybe this is why Hawkmoon seems to be a favorite of so many; his was a more human-scale task: defeat the British fascists, go back to France and ride flamingoes with your princess wife; it's something we can all relate to). But the antagonists' motivations if a lot of S&S, esp. the Conan stories, tend to be more human in scale--or completely alien!

Think of, say, "Hour of the Dragon" (some details may be off; I'm a people person ... who drinks). The villains are two Nemedian nobles and a sorcerer (I think Nemedian). They use the Heart of MacGuffin, er, Ahriman to resurrect another unbelievably powerful sorcerer to help them topple Conan and claim Aquilonia. Give or take 50,000 dead soldiers, this proceeds to happen.

So the Nemedians are basically motivated by greed. They want to wring every last cent out of Aquilonia. There are also some old scores to settle, some family rivalry, some booze- and drug-fueled orgies--it's all operating on a pretty human and relatable scale. What's at stake for them is money, power, and, I presume, easy access to booze and drugs. So far, so good.

Now, the ancient resurrected sorcerer, it turns out, has more complex motives--and they are completely batshit insane. Also quite realizable, it turns out. But he is not serving some cosmic force that wants to effect a shift in the balance or win another layer of the Abyss or anything. He wants to bring his vanished civilzation forward in time 3,000 years because he is more comfortable that way. What? I mean, I know making new friends is hard, especially when you are a batshit insane resurrected sorcerer, but this strikes me as overcompensation.

Of course, he's perfectly capable of doing it. So there's your tension. Conan wants to stop the Nemedian jerks from ruining the kingdom he built (my barons are backsliding! I just had them working right!) and the only way to really do this is to also stop the sorcerer from breaking time and space so that he can feel popular. There's your story, fishbulb.

Note that the important part about the sorcerer's goal is that it is *not* an essentially human (Western, nerdic) political goal dressed up as a cosmic motivation in the war for the multiverse. It's an alien, deranged, and totally selfish plan that will destroy the (admittedly rather crummy) modern Hyborian world kind of as an afterthought. But that's Conan's world, dammit, and no one destoys it but him.

So it seems to me that the antagonists' motives really set a lot up in S&S.

AS&SH is perfectly well made for this. I think one could make a lot of adventurers set around the efforts of antagonists of various classes to set up those 9th-lvl. strongholds. Since this does not always mean building a tower and clearing some land, the possibilities are basically endless and the goals basically human. I, the 8th-lvl. magician, need this one thing in order to set up this one event in order to claim whatever land I damn well want. Some jerk monks want to stop me and get their stupid relic back. I, the 9th-lvl necromancer, want to dupe some stupid adventurers into releasing a lot of undead in this area so that I can move it, take that tower, and live in a neighborhood I like (it stays wight out later there).

Alternatively, insane caprice, inhuman desires, crab-men.

But on none of this does the fate of the multiverse hang.

Anyway, that's what I was thinking. Human-sized or totally alien. Not just passing along human territorial pissings to the Lords of Ultimate Chaos.

Thoughts?

 

5/08/2014 12:35 pm  #56


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

I think there aren't really any "Demon Lords" or the like in Sword & Sorcery. The biggest, meanest sorcerers in Conan are Tsotha-Lanti and Toth-Amon. The next step above them are already Great Old Ones and Outer Gods.
The powers of the cosmos do not conquer territory or enslave people. They are a source of power for sorcerers, but not their superiors. If they take notice of individual people at all, then only to devour them.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

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     Thread Starter
 

5/08/2014 3:50 pm  #57


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

Yora wrote:

I think there aren't really any "Demon Lords" or the like in Sword & Sorcery.

I take it you haven't read the Zothique, Hyperborea, or Elric stories.  Or else don't consider them "sword and sorcery".  http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/wink.png


Michael Sipe 1979-2018
Rest in peace, brother.
 

5/08/2014 4:08 pm  #58


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

I consider those creatures significantly beyond those powerful immortals from D&D. They may be referred to as "lords" by mortals who don't understand what they are dealing with, but they don't have castles, sit on thrones made from skulls, and hold court over their dukes and counts of hell. Those creatures are just strong and smart monters, but not cosmic beings beyond human comprehension, as I consider the supernatural powers of S&S to be.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

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5/09/2014 10:46 am  #59


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

There are certainly daemons in Hyperborea. I think the swine daemons probably would end up with the most human motives--or at least the results they get would be humanly comprehensible, though it's entirely possible that interbreeding with Picts and creating a race of warrior thugs has yet still other motives that we are not at all privy to.

But I think what I was getting at, and what I'd love to hear some responses on since it could help me sharpen my thinking about some things, is that PCs in AS&SH are essentially reactive. They're mainly trying to get by, get rich, and get drunk (maybe get a leg over). The scenarios come about as they react to the plots and plans of others who are really going after something (power, mainly) or who are engaged in a-human plottings from beyond the nighted gulfs of space and time.

So for, say, adventure development, worrying about making the game S&S through examination of PC motives might not be as fruitful as examiniation of antagonist motives. And those should be either human (even if they involve releasing a horde of undead or sacrificing an innocent lunatic) or completely incomphrensible as a-human, ultramondane powers move through their instrutable plots.

 

5/09/2014 12:06 pm  #60


Re: Running games Sword & Sorcery style

To some degree, any action is reactive. Hearing of an opportunity for riches is a trigger and deciding to look into it is a reaction. Unless a player says "I want to look for something, please make an adventure for that", anything that you can offer the players will always result in a reaction.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

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