RedDiceDiaries RPG Blog ğŸŽ²

⚔️ Swords & Sorcery - Barbarians of Lemuria

In our last post talking about what I look for in a Swords & Sorcery game I asked people to email in to RDDRPGPodcast@gmail.com with suggestions for games that you thought were interesting within this sub-genre or that you thought might fit particularly well with the last I had created.

In case you've forgotten here's the list:

  1. Magic is rare, dangerous and possibly confined to evil NPCs.
  2. The gods are distant and do not regularly interfere in mortal lives.
  3. Ancient creatures of cosmic horror lurk just outside the bounds of perception.
  4. Whilst much ancient history is forgotten, decaying remnants of a cruel serpentine race that once ruled the land persist to the present day.
  5. Heroes are a little more self-serving, tending to be mighty warriors, faithful priests or sly rogues.
  6. Wild and savage societies struggle against the decadence and corruption of civilisation.
  7. The system must be able to support/encourage wild, swashbuckling action.

Well you certainly didn't disappoint, I had a number of emails from people offering their suggestions, I hope to get round to the majority of them, but I'm going to start with a long-time friend of the Red Dice Diaries podcast, Jason from the Nerd's RPG Variety Cast who sent in this message:

John,

You know my choice, Barbarians of Lemuria, I look forward to hearing your decision process as you choose a system.

Jason

So without further ado, let's have a look at Barbarians of Lemuria, or BOL as I'm going to call it from now-on.

Barbarians of Lemuria 🪓

Overview 👓

Before we start let me just tell you I'm looking at the Legendary Edition of BOL, I don't claim to understand all the differences between the editions due to the bizarre decision to use fairly arbitrary labels instead of numbers, but I think there are just some slight rule differences (I may be wrong though).

BOL bills itself as a Swords & Sorcery RPG, starting with a quick introduction section that details the history of the assumed setting, it's pretty brisk only taking a few pages but covers an age where the world was ruled by evil sorceror kings before being defeated by the wielders of the mighty orb-blade. We are also told how the sorceror-kings sought to return in secret and--although they weren't Serpent-men strictly--they were twisted and monstrous when they sought to return, and that counts enough to have a tick in that box for me.

We're also told in the introduction that main characters are never out to save the world from the minions of evil, they simply look out for themselves, although this generally leads to them doing 'the right thing.'

Stats & Mechanics ğŸŽ²

The core mechanic of the game is roling 2D6, adding any relevant modifiers and trying to get a total result that equals or exceeds nine; each players gets some points to divide among four attributes, Strength, Agility, Mind and Appeal.

Characters also get combat abilities called Brawl, Melee, Ranged and Defence that a starting character has an additional four points to allocate to.

All seems pretty standard RPG faire at the moment, but where it really departs for me is in the use of careers, rather than being classes in the manner of D&D you have ranks in a career and these modifiers can be added to any rolls where a knowledge of or experience in a particular career might help.

The careers given in the book are:

You also get to choose a birthplace and either one boon from the list associated with that place, or alternatively two boons and a flaw. These are all pretty interesting although they do tie the game into the background presented in the book, although I don't think it'd be difficult to tweak/rename these.

Magic 🪄

Although the most powerful magics are confined to evil NPCs in the game there is magic available to PCs, with characters who take ranks in the Magician career starting with a number of spell points. Rather than be given massive amounts of spells we're given some very simple guidelines to create spells for ourselves.

Priests and druids who follow a deity do not get spells as such but--as long as they follow the dictates of their faith and actively perform ceremonies of worship--they receive Fate Points that can grant one-off boons.

The World ğŸŒŽ

We get a gazetteer of the world of Lemuria which feels very much like a grab-bag of common Sword & Sorcery tropes, and I don't mean that in a bad way, it really works for the feel of this game; we even get some variant ab-human races if you want to bring them into your game.

The book rounds off with some antagonist stats, a couple of cheatsheets and a map of Lemuria.

So how does it shape up on our list ❓

✅ Magic is rare, dangerous and possibly confined to evil NPCs. Although some magic is definitely available to PCs, it's dangerous and takes a lot of research and rare ingredients, with the most powerful arcana being the domain of the villainous sorceror-kings and their ilk.

✅ The gods are distant and do not regularly interfere in mortal lives. Although the gods exist--as witnessed by the priest career--the book seems to suggest that they don't have a direct hand in affairs, confining themselves to granting subtle edges to the truly faithful.

❎ Ancient creatures of cosmic horror lurk just outside the bounds of perception. This doesn't seem to be as much of a thing in BOL, although some of the degenerate offshoots of the evil sorceror-kings do have something of the cosmic-horror vibe about them.

✅ Whilst much ancient history is forgotten, decaying remnants of a cruel serpentine race that once ruled the land persist to the present day. The ancient history of Lemura, although laid out in broad strokes, is still mystery and their are degenerate remnants of bygone days persisting into the moden day of the setting.

✅ Heroes are a little more self-serving, tending to be mighty warriors, faithful priests or sly rogues. Most definitely, this is explicitly spelled out at the start of the book.

✅ Wild and savage societies struggle against the decadence and corruption of civilisation. There is a pretty clear line in the setting between the savage aspects of the world and the ostensibly more civilised parts of it.

✅ The system must be able to support/encourage wild, swashbuckling action. The system is quite flexible and the PCs have hero points that they can use to accomplish crazy action and tilt things in their favour, they can also achieve spectacular successes and there are rules for rabble, enemies that can be scythed through in great numbers.

Overall score: 6 out of 7

Final thoughts 💭

I really like BOL and think it does a great job of capturing that Swords & Sorcery feeling in a very easy to digest package that isn't too complicated; given that this ticked off most of the points on my list I think we're starting off pretty strong.

If you like the world offering in BOL or you're willing to put in the (fairly minimal) amount of work to reskin some of the location-based backgrounds, I think it's a great game.

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