Sunday, February 5, 2017

Old Mars OSR Campaign Evolution - A Warriors of The Red Planet & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Hybrid Campaign


So this morning at about two A.M., I was very restless because this idea of a thought exercise with Mars just won't seem to let go. Something about the bothers me in a visceral way. Years ago back about two thousand six or so I was running a D20 Martian campaign that just didn't do it for me. I felt trapped & constrained by the company's & the author's take on Mars. Last night I went back & reread the book's system again. This isn't an edition war statement but man the book has a ton of game & system bloat.


It was quite frankly too clean, to polished, & didn't have the old school weirdness that I was looking for. I handed it off to my co dungeon master at the time Peter (ex friend of mine) & hadn't thought about it in forever. But Clark Aston Smith does something to your brain & just won't let go. Sword & Sorcery has always been closely aligned with planetary romance & all goes right down to the roots of D&D.


Kevin Gill from Nashua, NH, United States Looking Down Valles Marineris

The Old Mars I know from the back lizard brain of mind is a wasteland filled with ancient ruins, struggling city states where humans are the aliens, Green Martians have returned from space to their ancestral homelands, & mutants stalk the wastelands serving ancient horrors beyond the ken of man. I see desperate Hyperborean noblemen & mercenaries going toe to toe with human interlopers whist Amazon warriors seek alien princess & princes in hidden jungle lost worlds.  Issus is dead & the back of the Therns has been broken but this has allowed the old gods, the jealous gods to return to the planet. Cults & factions seek to undermine the human occupation. Black Gate sorcerers conspire in secret dens of iniquity far removed from  decedent palaces of the royals of Mars.



So what I'm I going for here? A combination of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leah Brackett, Clark Aston Smith, C.L. Moore, & many others for a wasteland campaign with some really interesting twists. Here the humans are minority, a few scattered city states, a bit of atomic rocket technology, & their days on Old Mars might be numbered. But not for the reasons that they think, time & space might be breaking down; the gods have returned & the Borea winds are blowing. Magic is on the move, chaos comes to call,and ancient horrors are rising. This is a time when heroes are need, some have come from across the planets such as Hyperborea but others will rise from within.

Mars craters taken by Mariner 4

I already know the look & feel of this campaign because in my youth I saw the art of Philip Druillet that my father's best friend brought back with him from Europe.



I sent hours looking at these & thinking of how these would work in a campaign where ancient Martian hatreds flare & violence is at the end of a sword or radium pistol.


You can almost feel the grit & grime from the artwork here, one part Burroughs & three parts Moorcock seething off of the page here.



The power of black magic is a festering virus in some dark corners of Mars as minor nations fall from within  the influence peddlers & dark wizards begin their ascent to the thrones of old city states & weaker kingdoms. Princesses and upstart royals take free city states one after another. All of this is the set up from “The Empress of Mars,” a 1939 science fiction novelette written by Ross Rocklynne, as it was illustrated and reprinted in the October 1942 issue of Fantastic Adventures magazine. This public domain novel is partially the set up for my own Warriors of the Red Planet & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea hybrid campaign.

Issus has fallen & her presence was the stop gap against the old gods of Mars but now cults have risen along the canals & byways. The Borea winds blow the dust off of half forgotten ruins,million year old cities, even as blood thirsty monsters & demons rise from the ashes of eons. Armies march as rulers take full advantage of the chaos & the atomic glare of rockets turn the red sand to glass as human kind struggles to merely survive on this terribly world of warfare & violence.


Mars Relic Technology Items
Flame Gun - Fire Arm of Hyperborean Martian colony design features a twelve in long barrel of green blue steel construction, a crystal gun sight, & a poly steel energy cell magazine system. The weapon can be fired once per round & creates a flaming blast of plasma 20 feet long & ten feet wide at its terminus. The blast delivers 4d6 points of damage (avoidance save allowed for half damage). Any flammable material within the blast radius will be set on fire. A typical magazine holds ten shots, when found there may be 1d4 magazines within its proximity. Magazines typically hold 1d10 charges.
10 mm. needle gun - A blue black Atlantean Martian colonist weapon that consists of  nine inch long green steel metal, a crystal gun sight, & a 10 mm needle ammo filled magazine holding 20 shots. The weapon releases four shots per round doing 1d6 points of damage with the needles coated in a save vs death poison. A typical magazine holds twenty shots. There may be 1d4 spare magazines around when the gun is found. These weapons are often seen as spy or assassins weapons but are not looked down upon by warriors. It takes considerable skill to use one of the weapons effectively.

Note that there are many other variations of these weapon systems in use across the solar system.

1d10 Random Encounters In The Wastelands Of
Old Mars 
  1. 1d6 Martian traders on a mission for a lesser city state they are recruiting warriors & Panthans for their journey into the wastes. 
  2. Weapons trader looking to show off his talents & wares, he may have weapon cells and spares available for uncommon systems. 
  3. 1d6 black gate cultists disguised as religious pilgrims looking for recruits to undermine the local festivals in near by city states. They are looking to start a riot and bomb the whole thing causing chaos and a sacrifice for their dark lord. 
  4. 1d6 Green men mercenary warriors on a mission to slay a blood feud enemy. They are very taciturn and mean but no one will stop them. 
  5. Human colonists on a water gathering mission looking for help with a local Red Martian warlord. They are willing to pay 1d200 gold pieces 
  6. A Hyperborean wizard looking to loot some ancient relics and he could use help on his mission perhaps your party.
  7. A run away princess from a minor kingdom seeks the help of ancient scientist but her father wants her murdered. Her throat won't respond to her telepathic commands, several 1d6 cultists and mutants have spotted her. 
  8.  A crashed atomic rocket has 1d6 survivors who need to get to a nearby city state and get air supplies. They are willing to pay 1d40 gold pieces for help. 
  9. A gang of 1d20 mutant cultists wants your party for sacrifices! They have war mounts & cross bows! They are 2nd level fighters capable of murder and worse! Scum of the lowest order! 
  10. An alien virus erupts from the ground! The thing is hungry and very dangerous! Treat as triple hit point black pudding with double the mass of a normal monster! This thing will kill anyone or anything it can!



Note that this is for personal use only and is not an attempt to violate the copyright or trademark of The Warriors of the Red Planet rpg or The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg system.  Neither is this an attempt to violate the trademarks nor copyrights of the authors named. Sword and Stitchery would like to thank the Art of Barsoom blog for their continued work on the behalf of ERB fans everywhere. Sword & Stitchery is not trying to violate the trademark nor copy right of the publishers of the artwork  nor the artist Philip Druillet. Artwork used without permission   All material herein comes under the heading of fair use. This blog post is for educational and entertainment purposes only.

Ideas, items, names, adventure ideas, opinions to follow are the copyright & trademark of the author & Dark Corner Productions

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