👽 A Martian Future for a Fantasy Game
Although I'm running a finite Vampire 5th Edition game at the moment, my plan was and is to get back to some variety of OSR fantasy once that campaign has reached a conclusion; as you may be aware from my recent posts I've been considering the Swords & Sorcery sub-genre of fantasy. It was whilst I was thumbing through a copy of Barbarians of Lemuria for a recent blog post, that I noticed there is a skyship pilot listed as one of the available careers/occupations. This immediately put me in mind of the John Carter books where sky ships feature a great deal in the strange version of mars created by the author.
🪐 Sword and Planet
Wikipedia describes the sub-genre as follows:
Sword and planet is a subgenre of science fantasy that features rousing adventure stories set on other planets, and usually featuring humans as protagonists. The name derives from the heroes of the genre engaging their adversaries in hand-to-hand combat primarily with simple melée weapons such as swords, even in a setting that often has advanced technology. Although there are works that herald the genre, such as Percy Greg's Across the Zodiac (1880) and Edwin Lester Arnold's Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (1905; published in the US in 1964 as Gulliver of Mars), the prototype for the genre is A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs originally serialized by All-Story in 1912 as "Under the Moons of Mars".
You can find the full entry here.
I've long said that one of the things I enjoy about some of the earlier works of fantasy (and also RPGs) is that the boundaries between the genres were policed less strictly; you could have a fantasy story of mighty muscled barbarians that also drew on cosmic horror, planetary romance, ancient alien theory and all manner of other subjects. I feel that this has been somewhat lost as time has gone on and the boundaries between genres have calcified; although I'm not generally a fan of the grab-bag/gonzo style of gaming (probably because I'm not very good at running that style) I do like being able to draw from different areas of inspiration.
🔴 Warriors of the Red Planet
Warriors of the Red Planet is an OSR game produced by Night Owl Workshop, designed to evoke the style of the Sword & Planet sub-genre, without adhering to one author's specific vision of it, although an appendix is offered that leans more heavily towards the Edgar Rice Burroughs mars stories.
One of the most interesting things for me is the races that the game offers:
- Ancients: The stereotypical uber-intelligent but physically weak race who are generally scientists or powerful psychics.
- *Elevated: Uplifted animals and creatures.
- Exotic: A native, inhuman populace.
- Human: Naturally.
- Unliving: Unnatural, re-animated creations.
Of more interest to me though are the ERB inspired races in the Appendix:
- Red men of Mars: The dominant race of ERB's Mars, a hardy red-skinned folk born from eggs with limited telepathy.
- Green men of Mars: Huge, towering creatures with four arms, they are ferocious and thought to be devoid of compassion.
- Black Martians: Valuing martial prowess above all, the self-titled Firstborn conduct pirate raids on the other races, whom they consider lesser.
- White Martians: Degenerate remnants of an ancient priest-race they hide in the shadows, manipulating others through their religious beliefs.
- Yellow Martians: Living in the frozen north, these renowned hunters maintain fearsome technology, including great walled cities that preserve them from the cold.
💡 Ideas for the future
One of the things I enjoy about the ERB stories is that the various peoples of Mars are very distinct and this is most obviously reflected in their different hues, but also their cultures. I could see myself using some variant of the different races from Warriors of the Red Planet in my future Swords & Sorcery game, perhaps dialling back on the planetary aspect of it a little, but having a world populated by these very different cultures of humanity.
And well, if I happened to throw some airships in, that's all to the good too 😄